With the recent positive steps towards LGBT equality internationally and within the United States, it can be easy to forget that not all countries are on an upward trend. On the heels of marriage equality in France, strides towards it in England and even positive signs of LGBT acceptance among protesters in Gezi Park in Turkey, Russia and Greece appear to be moving backwards.
On Tuesday, the lower house of Russia's parliament passed a bill that would ban distribution of information about LGBT people to youth. The vote was 434-0 with one abstention, which came from Ilya Ponomaryov, who has often supported anti-Putin protesters. It would lead to the imposition of heavy fines of up to 5000 rubles for individuals or 1 million rubles for a company for holding pride rallies or providing minors with info about the LGBT community. The so called "non-traditional relationships propaganda" law now has to move on to the upper house and then to President Putin. It is expected be approved at both stops.
Gay rights activists were largely outnumbered as they protested before the vote. The nearly two dozen protesters were attacked by some of the hundreds of bill supporters, who threw eggs and shouted homophobic slurs and other obscenities. Riot police first stood between the protesters and the supporters and then arrested some twenty protesters. Protesters who were not arrested were attacked a few streets over by masked men.
In Greece, police in the country's second largest city, Thessaloniki, have been arresting and harassing transgender people without cause on a daily basis since May 30th. Those who have been arrested have been held for at least three or four hours, waiting to be identified. In three of the incidences trans women were stopped while driving, without being given any proof of their traffic violation, and taken in to the station to be identified. In all of the reported incidents the police used harassed and otherwise humiliated the trans people, said the Greek Transgender Support Association.
The Association believes that the arrests have come as a reaction to local municipal and church representatives speaking against the pride celebrations which will happen in the city on the June 14th and 15th. It seems clear to them that, " there is a targeted plan to hit one of the most vulnerable groups in the LGBT community, namely that of transgender persons. They are the ones who suffer most from acute intolerance and exclusion by society and are the easiest victims." If the arrests continue the Association has threatened to turn to the international community for help.
While it is easy to get lost in the excitement over the positive upswing in support for marriage equality and other LGBT issues in this country and others, it is very important to remember that it is not the case everywhere.