Due to the recent anti-LGBT laws enforced in Russia, the U.S. Department of State released an advisory guide for American citizens who plan to visit the country. With the 2014 Winter Olympics approaching rapidly, the U.S. government hopes to educate its citizens about ways to remain safe while abroad. Along with safety tips such as avoiding overcrowded places, the guide also reminds the readers about the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" that became a law.
"Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,100)," explains the alert. "Foreign citizens face similar fines, up to 14 days in jail, and deportation. The law makes it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public, but lacks concrete legal definitions for key terms. Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes 'LGBT propaganda,' and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as 'LGBT propaganda” Says the Advocate.
Along with making sure that the tourist is aware of the laws, a separate website has been launched directed towards members of the LGBT community.
“There are a number of countries that provide legal protections to those who are LGBT. Unfortunately, there are others that do not, and a significant number that even criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Persons convicted in these countries could be sentenced to prison, and/or be punished by fines, deportation, flogging, or even sentenced to death. Before choosing one’s international destination, LGBT travelers should carefully consider the laws and biases of their international destination and decide how open one can be regarding one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Personal judgment and knowledge of local laws and customs before one goes will help ensure your safety”
The website also encourages all LGBT tourists to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free program offers U.S. citizens latest updates from the local US embassy as well as a way for the U.S. government to locate the person in case of an emergency. This program can serve as a sense of safety while traveling outside of the U.S. territory.
The first tourists to get arrested under the “Gay Propaganda” law were 4 Dutch LGBT activists. While traveling to Russia they began filming a documentary exposing how LGBT individuals are treated in such discriminative country. The activists interviewed a teenager which broke the Russian law. Kris van der Veen and two of his friends got arrested in the northern city of Murmansk.
In order to avoid more arrests based on this law, we encourage all who plan on traveling to Sochi to get familiar with the guide.