As we get closer to the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, we continue to hear about the politics of Russia's anti-LGBT laws and their effect on athletes, on the leaders of other nations, and on the games.
Human Rights Watch wants you to know that it's much worse — and more violent — for LGBT Russians than you might think.
In a disturbing new report (complete with the very, very disturbing video below), Human Rights Watch describes an epidemic of public violence, harassment, and abuse against LGBT Russians. The problem intensified over the course of 2013, the group claims, as the Russian state adopted new anti-LGBT laws and embraced increasingly hateful rhetoric.
An LGBT group based in St. Petersburg contributed some shocking data from an anonymous survey it conducted of 2,007 LGBT citizens in 2013. More than 50 percent said they experienced psychological abuse and 15 percent said they had been subjected to physical violence. Considering the state-sanctioned nature of anti-LGBT sentiment, only 6 percent of the respondents contacted police about the crimes.
“The Russian authorities have the power to protect the rights of LGBT people, but instead they are ignoring their responsibility to do so,” said Tanya Cooper, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people.”
If you need a more vivid documentation of the violence, you can watch the video that Human Rights Watch produced to accompany its report. Warning: it's violent and upsetting.