by Yo-Ling Chen

Photo courtesy of TAPCPR

YESTERDAY AFTERNOON, on the first day of Russia’s presidential election, civil society groups hosted a solidarity protest for Russia’s LGBT+ community outside of the Moscow-Taipei Coordination Commission on Economic and Cultural Cooperation’s (MTC) office in Taipei. The protest, organized by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR), was part of All Out’s “Global Speak Out for the Russian LGBT+ Community” campaign, which included coordinated protests in ten other countries across the world.

All Out’s global solidarity campaign comes in response to severe prohibitions against LGBT+ peoples in Russia. Last July, Russia passed a law banning gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapy, as well as changing one’s legal gender. Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in late November of last year that the “international LGBT+ movement” is “extremist,” meaning that all LGBT+ peoples and their allies in Russia can be arbitrarily prosecuted under the 2002 Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity. In January of this year, a woman was sentenced to five days in detention for wearing rainbow-colored earrings, as the rainbow flag is considered an “extremist group symbol.” Repeat offenses for displaying such symbols are punishable by up to four years imprisonment. For the past year, Russia has been eradicating every public trace of its LGBT+ community, leading many to flee the country.

Anti-LGBT+ legislation this past year is a continuation of “anti-propaganda” laws meant to expunge Russia of “Western liberal values,” such as the 2013 law banning the “promotion” of “nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” Given the suspected murder by poison of imprisoned political opposition figure Alexei Navalny on February 16 of this year, compounded with doubts as to whether the election will be free and fair, Putin is expected to continue his 24-year-long reign for another six years, plunging prospects for improvements in Russian LGBT+ rights further into impossibility.

TAPCPR’s Global Speak Out demonstration was attended by Amnesty International, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, and Queer Margins. TAPCPR secretary-general Chih-Chieh Chien (簡至潔) explained that since Putin assumed power in 2000, LGBT+ rights have been severely violated and criminalized; TAPCPR lawyer Victoria Hsu (許秀雯) further stated that “injustice anywhere in the world is a threat to justice everywhere.”

TAPCPR lawyer Victoria Hsu. Photo courtesy of TAPCPR.

The Tongzhi Hotline Association’s representative also mentioned Taiwanese solidarity with Ukraine in their remarks, condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine alongside LGBT+ repression. Demonstrators demanded that Russia “stop oppressing gender diversity” (停止壓迫多元性別), “stop invading Ukraine” (停止侵略烏克蘭), and in general to “stop war, stop oppression”. Coincidentally, TAPCPR’s demonstration took place at the same time as Taiwan Stands With Ukraine’s regular demonstration outside of the MTC office. A written statement by a Russian transgender refugee in Taiwan who remained anonymous due to security concerns was also read.

TAPCPR has called on the public to leave reviews on MTC’s Google maps page demanding an end to LGBT+ repression and war, and urged everyone to spread the word about All Out’s campaign on social media and to tag MTC. Interested readers can also support Russian LGBT+ refugees right now by signing the Sphere Foundation’s petition demanding safe passage for those in danger on All Out’s website.

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