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- Russia One year after gay purge in Chechnya, still no justice for victims | Amnesty International
Significantly, mental health providers we spoke with said the law interferes with their ability to offer honest, scientifically accurate, and open counseling services, leading some to self-censor themselves or set out explicit disclaimers at the start of sessions to avoid running afoul of the law. This report—based largely on interviews with LGBT youth and mental health professionals in diverse locations in Russia, including urban and rural areas—documents the situation of LGBT youth there today.
It looks at their everyday experiences in schools, homes, and in public, and their ability to access reliable and accurate information about themselves as well as counseling and other support services.
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As of today, teachers and teachers-psychologists are not allowed to speak positively [on LGBT topics]. LGBT youth interviewed by Human Rights Watch described feelings of intense fear of disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity in their daily lives, as well as distrust in the individuals and systems that should provide them safety and refuge. This fear extends beyond the school walls: For some, peers are a source of relative support and openness—when compared with how their parents and teachers relate to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Others, however, face harassment, bullying, and discrimination at the hands of their classmates, who often repeat the stereotypes, misinformation, and noxious anti-LGBT rhetoric pervasive in Russian media. Some students heard comments from classmates suggesting that LGBT people do not deserve to live. Nearly all of the youth we spoke with described intense feelings of isolation, which they attributed to persistent anti-LGBT rhetoric and hostile social attitudes. Repeatedly, they explained that their primary struggle is not coming to terms with being different as such, but rather finding accurate information about gender and sexuality in a hostile environment.
In the absence of accurate information and safe access to community spaces, or support from teachers and school mental health staff, many LGBT youth turn to the internet—an embattled, politicized, and often-censored space in Russia. Mental health professionals we spoke with strongly echoed what LGBT youth said. They spoke of growing fear and anxiety among such youth since the law passed and an increase in demands for counselors attuned to LGBT issues, but also pervasive ignorance among psychologists and new self-censorship even among those who understand the issues and want to play a positive role in the lives of LGBT youth.
And by erecting legal barriers between marginalized youth and the support services and information they need, the law does significant harm. Deti is an online group that offers psychological support, advice, and a safe online community for LGBT children, including those who experience violence and aggression because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The reporter then asked her: How do they get information that it is not a disease, that it's okay?
Deti has gained tens of thousands of members since then and has become a crucial source of information and refuge for LGBT youth in Russia. International bodies—including the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child—have strongly condemned it for this reason. Our interviews show that Russian youth are resilient amid the onslaught of anti-LGBT rhetoric, negative social attitudes, discriminatory laws, and persistent misinformation in their lives.
The path forward requires repeal of the law and other reforms that uphold the basic rights of LGBT youth to freedom of expression and access to information. Mental health professionals, for their part, should not have to look over their shoulders when providing counseling and other services to LGBT youth: This report is based on Human Rights Watch interviews conducted between October and April with 56 sexual and gender minority youth and 11 mental health providers and social workers in Russia, extensive review of court records and secondary source materials through November , and prior Human Rights Watch research published in news releases and other public documents from to Most interviews were conducted in Russian with simultaneous translation into English, some by an interviewer fluent in Russian, and a few completely in English.
Interviewees live in different cities and regions across Russia, including St. Human Rights Watch researchers identified potential interviewees through Russian LGBT organizations, including Deti, and then contacted and interviewed them independently. All interviewees were informed of the purpose of the interview, its voluntary nature and the goal and public nature of our reports.
All interviewees gave their oral consent to participate in the interview. Pseudonyms have been used for all interviewees, and some additional identifying information, such as location, has been withheld. No interviewee received compensation for providing information. Most interviews were conducted by telephone or via internet communication. Our letters appear in Appendices 1 and 2 respectively.
The Ministry of Education responded on November 9, ; its letter appears in Appendix 3. The Ministry of Health has not responded to our letter. Antipathy towards same-sex conduct is not new in Russia. Same-sex relations between men were decriminalized in , two years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and in the Russian Ministry of Health recognized the standards of the International Classification of Diseases ICD , which had been revised in to remove a diagnosis for homosexuality. In early , law enforcement and security officials in Chechnya systematically rounded up dozens of men suspected of being gay, held them for days in secret locations, and subjected them to humiliation, starvation, and other torture, forcing them to hand over information about other men who might be gay.
While they eventually pledged to open an investigation,  to date none has been carried out. The ban includes but is not limited to information provided via the press, television, radio, and the internet.
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Heavier fines may be imposed for the same actions if done through mass media and telecommunications, including the internet. Foreigners who violate the ban can be deported. Anti-gay groups used the law to justify campaigns of harassment and intimidation of LGBT teachers and other school or college staff to get them fired from their jobs. The group believes that information and education are vital for safeguarding the life, health, and well-being of young people.
Other cases include:. In addition, in November police confiscated several student drawings submitted to a contest held in Yekaterinburg in honor of International Tolerance Day. We are all unique in our own ways. Aleksey M.
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The law has also contributed to widespread misinformation about gender and sexuality in Russia—including for parents, as documented later in this report. For many LGBT children, most arenas of life—home, school, and the neighborhood—are risky. Those interviewed for this report describe being constantly on alert for harassment and violence. Many confront the anguished choice of hiding who they are to protect themselves from abuse or being open about their identity and placing themselves at greater risk. Russian Orthodox Church leaders have made inflammatory public statements about gay people, and the strong and growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church had fueled existing anti-LGBT sentiments.
Some of the students Human Rights Watch interviewed said they were subject to violence or threats of violence. Denis P. But sometimes I face homophobic attacks. It was especially bad, when I was in school, in a small town. Georgy L. Anton M. Then I got used to it. Georgy, the year-old transgender boy, described the reactions he gets when people overhear his classmates using male pronouns to refer to him:.
Such reactions happen frequently, he told us, adding that hearing these reactions is extremely upsetting. He explained:. The school psychologist explained:. Parents and other adults can be an important source of guidance and support to LGBT youth, and most of the students we interviewed explicitly said it was a priority for them that their parents accept them for who they were. However, many parents seemed ill-equipped to be supportive of LGBT children, our interviews suggested. As a result, many LGBT youth felt that they could not turn to their parents for the guidance they wanted and felt they needed.
For many of the youth Human Rights Watch interviewed, stigma began at home. Taras P. Ekaterina T. Nobody understands me, in fact.
- To the Government of the Russian Federation.
- Raised by ISIS, Returned to Chechnya: ‘These Children Saw Terrible Things’.
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- Russia Bans Popular LGBT Website for 'Propaganda of Nontraditional Sexual Relations'.
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And this is very hard. In fact, many of the LGBT youth we spoke with said they were afraid that their parents would react with verbal abuse, restrictions on who they could see and what they could do in their free time, physical violence, or by kicking them out of the house. As a result, they had not come out to their parents. A psychologist in Moscow said that three of the four LGBT youth clients she worked with had problems with their families:.
A Moscow-based social worker who runs an online help portal as well as support groups for LGBT youth explained that the majority of the queries her organization receives are from friends of LGBT youth who are worried about them. She said: Meaning, it is about a conflict with the parents. Some students who discussed their sexual orientation or gender identity with their parents were surprised to find that their parents were supportive.
More commonly, however, the youth we interviewed who had been open with their parents reported that their parents were negative or ambivalent about acknowledging them for who they were. Some transgender youth reported particularly difficult experiences with their parents.
Lev M. Vasily said his mother does not usually object to the way he dresses, but often checks to make sure he does not wear a binder around his chest.
Russia One year after gay purge in Chechnya, still no justice for victims | Amnesty International
When his mother came to pick him up, his nanny happened to comment that she had thought his breasts were bigger. As Vasily put it: At home, she forced me to take off the t-shirt and explain. Now she always does that, when I'm going somewhere—she touches my back and checks. A psychologist who works with LGBT youth said: We can be a great resource when parents are ready to get information and support their children because then these parents become defenders of their children.
This psychologist stressed that whether a LGBT youth or a parent received knowledgeable, supportive care from a psychologist depended on a chance encounter with a supportive professional who was willing to risk running afoul of the law. Many of her peers in mental health services did not receive appropriate training about sexual orientation and gender identity-related issues. Discussing an in-patient rehabilitation center where she worked for two years, she said: Whether a student finds support, respect, and affirmation from peers, teachers, or school staff depends almost entirely on chance.
Most LGBT students we interviewed for this report said the environment in Russian schools is indifferent, hostile, or outright violent. Experience there can have immediate as well as lifelong consequences. Most said that schools provide neither reliable information nor support for LGBT youth—forcing them to turn elsewhere. And the relentless hostility that many face in school impairs their ability to focus on their studies, and thus their access to education.