World Cup 2018: Russian authorities must respect LGBTQI rights

World Cup 2018: Russian authorities must respect LGBTQI rights - Civic Space

18 year old Vika Skuetsova, wrapped in a rainbow flag and holding a candle, at an event commemorating LGBT victims of homophobic violence in Russia. Vika is bisexual and is a student studying economy at university. Homosexuality was decriminalised in the first years of the Soviet Union, but in 1933 Josef Stalin prohibited all homosexual activities and it remained illegal until 1993.

On the opening of the World Cup 2018, freedom of expression organisation, ARTICLE 19, is calling on the Russian authorities to stop denying LGBTQI people their basic human rights.

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said:  

“LGBTQ people in the Russian Federation face significant violence and discrimination, led by the State and even enshrined in its laws. ARTICLE 19 is calling for the repeal of repressive legislation, such as the ‘homosexual propaganda ban’, which is used to both censor and stigmatise LGBTQI people, and prevent them from accessing important information and support.

“The situation is particularly dire in Chechnya where people have been detained, beaten and tortured by law enforcement agencies on suspicion of being gay. Rather than condemning this violence, statements by the Chechen authorities appear to incite further violence.”

Some of the ways that LGBTQI people’s rights are targeted include:

Hate speech towards LGBTQI groups

Hate speech is both led by the state and reinforced by legislation. Russian state officials regularly attack LGBTQI groups verbally in public statements and on social media, and their views are spread in pro-government media.

Example: Vitalii Milonov, member of the ruling United Russia Party frequently attacks LGBTQI people through his social media, public speeches, and politics. He posts responses to any LGBTQI activists’ presence in the public sphere. When LGBTQI activists joined a broader civic protest against the transfer of ownership of St Isaac’s Cathedral from St Petersburg city to the Russian Orthodox Church, he said they were: “Crazy faggots, pumped up by their leaders, who have nothing to do with our traditions.”

In March 2017, News47, an online media platform, reported on comments by the head of the town hall administration in Svetogorsk, Sergey Davidov, that there is no such thing as homosexual activity, arguing that “there never were any gay people and never will be, they will not invade, not even from the West.

‘Homosexual propaganda’ ban

In 2013, Russia passed a law, known commonly as the ‘homosexual propaganda ban’, ostensibly to ‘protect’ young people. It makes ‘promoting non-traditional sexual relations to minors’ illegal. Over the last five years, this law has been used to fine LGBTQI people and block websites that provide advice and support.

Examples include:

  • Sergey Alekseenko, a Murmansk-based LGBT activist was fined 100,000 roubles (1,450 EUR) for content published on the social media page of a group providing legal and psychological support for LGBTQ people on 18 January 2016.
  • In January 2015, Deti-404, an online support and advice community for LGBTQI young people, was blocked, on the grounds that it “promoted homosexuality” among minors. A week later, the community’s social media accounts were blocked for allegedly “promoting suicide”, due to a post about suicidal feelings by a community member.
  • Evdokia Romanova, a member of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, charged in September 2017. The charges stem from links to articles on LGBT rights, which she reposted on various social networks.
  • Vitalii Milonov suggested that the Ministry of Culture should ban the recent Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, which featured a gay character. He said:

“This is a movie that shows perverts; children shouldn’t see these neoliberal mucks. Adults have the ability to assess how much they are interested in looking at these perverts. The purpose of this film is to instill in our Russian children new European tolerance standards, so that they consider all this to be the norm, but fortunately thank God, the Ministry of Culture has shown its civic responsibility and addressed this problem.”

The children’s film was given a 16 rating.

Use of hate speech and anti-extremist legislation

A law to counter extremism has been used to target criticism and dissent, including from LGBTQI  activists.


In 2015, Konstantin Golava, an LGBTQI activist, was charged with dissemination of extremist materials for 2014 social media posts when he published a popular meme criticising supporters of Russia’s policy and a poem ridiculing supporters of annexation of Crimea, and supporters of Stalin. The charges included “incitement to hatred towards a social group”: “Russian citizens”, under Article 282 of the Criminal Code. He sought refuge in Sweden to avoid prosecution.

LGBTQ websites are blocked

A law that bans “a public action expressing clear disrespect for society and committed in order to insult the religious feelings of believers” has been used to block LGBTQI websites. Article 148.1 was introduced in July 2013 and can be used to give penalties of up to one year in prison.

LGBTQI marches and demonstrations are banned

The banning of LGBTQI marches and demonstrations further stigmatizes LGBTQI people and denies them their right to express themselves. The list of known banned events includes:

  • Moscow Pride (banned every year since 2006)
  • International Day Against Homophobia – an assembly application was dismissed in St Petersburg in May 2016
  • ‘Polar Pride’ to be held in the Arctic Circle (banned in January 2017).


In 2017, Novaya Gazeta, a Russian independent newspaper, reported that over 100 men were detained, beaten and tortured by law enforcement agencies on suspicion of being gay:

On 1 April 2017 Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, stated that: “You cannot arrest or repress people who don’t exist. If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement wouldn’t have any problems with them, as their own relatives would have sent them to a place they would never return from”.

Egypt’s training base will be located in Chechnya during the 2018 World Cup.

The Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov has been photographed with Egyptian player Mo Salah.

Notes to Editors

On 29 June 2013, Russia adopted Federal Law no. 135-FZ, the so-called “homosexual propaganda ban”, which amended Article 6.21 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation (2001)226 on protecting minors.

In February 2018, Article 19 published Challenging hate: Monitoring anti-LGBT “hate speech” and responses to it in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine

Article 19’s Joint submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the Russian Federation on freedom of expression issues is available online.

In May 2017 FIFA published its Human Rights Policy.