100 Years of Homophobia & 2 Years of Hard Labour: New Paranoia for a New Russia

This is going to go down in history as the week in which Russia made itself look really pathetic on the world stage. Lord knows, history hasn’t been all that kind to Russia, but for the most part, it has itself to blame. There was that rather dreadful revolution, and then all those Stalinist gulags, Chernobyl, permanently drunk Presidents, the whole Chechnya thing, a raft of journalists being assassinated, etc.  Russia seems to shoot itself in the foot with alarming regularity.

This week, Moscow’s highest court banned Gay Pride parades for 100 years. Why 100 years? Heck, who knows? It sounds like such a good round number.  “The Moscow city government argues that the gay parade would risk causing public disorder and that most Muscovites do not support such an event.” And apparently they don’t anticipate that their citizens will be any less homophobic or more tolerant for a century.

Not only does the high court have a very low opinion of progress, but its citizens also feel that having their feelings hurt is a sueable offense. The same day, a group of anti-gay activists filed suit against Madonna for $10 Million alleging that she insulted their feelings by remarking that the St Petersburg ban on ‘homosexual propaganda’ was a ‘ridiculous atrocity’.

Maybe the $10 million represents damages of  $100,000 every year for the 100 years they are expected to be not only intolerant, but also pathologically thin-skinned.

Meanwhile, the feminist Punk Band Pussy Riot members have been sentenced each to 2 years of hard labour for staging a performance in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral. They sang their song insulting Putin and the Church, and they *gasp* insulted people. No, they didn’t cause any damage. They didn’t set anything on fire. They just offended people. Many Church goers from all over the world are defending the sentence, saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to walk into churches and sing obscene songs.

But I think it can be fairly argued that when a church decided to enter into the political arena, backing a particular politician, and supporting a particular government’s policies, then it really loses the right to act like the innocent and aggrieved party. The Russian Orthodox church has chosen to become a political entity. At this point, it relinquishes the right to  pose as the hapless bystander. If you get into bed with politicians, you can expect to be treated with the same derision as they do.

In all three of these cases, the judiciary is clearly not acting independently. Homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, nor is freedom of expression. Yes, the members of Pussy Riot trespassed, but since when did trespassing without causing physical damage ever result in a 2 year prison sentence in any civilized democracy? Especially when the act was so clearly one of political protest?

This week’s events in Russia really do paint the country as a backwards, repressive backwater. And it’s sad that Russians are going to take umbrage at being portrayed as such idiots, but like so many times before, they’ve really done this to themselves, again.

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