Russian police are refusing to investigate extreme homophobic hate speech—because they claim gay people are not a valid social group.
Anna Plyusnina, who is a legal adviser at Yekaterinburg LGBT Resource Centre, alerted the police to extremist messages posted online advocating violent attacks on gay people.
However, a report on Russian-language website Znak, translated by Meduza, alleges that anti-extremism police officers told her no action would be taken because the messages were “not addressed to any group of people on the grounds of ethnic, racial, religious, or social identity.”
The suggestion that gay people are not even recognised as a group has caused alarm
Russian authorities have previously been accused of exploiting hate speech laws to stifle dissent.
Earlier this month, the Moscow Times reported that a popular feminist blogger was charged under hate speech laws for “inciting hatred” towards men.
Other users have faced similar action over memes posted online.
Research carried out by independent Russian polling agency the Levada Center found that 83 percent of respondents consider it “always reprehensible” or “almost always reprehensible” for two adults to have gay sex.
This marks a drastic increase from 1998, when just 68 percent found it unacceptable, and 2008, when 76 percent found it unacceptable.
The country also maintains a gay ‘propaganda’ law that human rights watchdogs say is used to clamp down on the LGBT community.
The law has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, which warned of a chilling effect that stifles all dissent on LGBT issues