Things just keep getting worse for Russia's gays.
Last month, President Putin signed into law a bill that classifies any "homosexual propaganda" — which really means anything that shows homosexuality in any sort of positive light — as pornography. He then followed it with a bill allowing police officers to arrest and detain any foreigners suspected of being gay — or even just "pro-gay." And then, to round out the set (since apparently three is the magic number for bullying and hate-mongering), Putin banned the adoption of Russian babies to gay couples or to a country where marriage equality exists, in any form.
Now, Russian skinhead Maxim Martsinkevich (known by the tasteful nickname Cleaver) has started a new group called "Occupy Pedophilyaj." The group is ostensibly against pedophilia but, in reality, only seems to target young gay teens who respond to personal ads advertising same-sex dates. When the boys show up for the "dates," they are bullied incessantly and often tortured — several had urine poured on them, or were beaten and forced to pose with sex toys. Some are painted. And the complete encounters are videotaped and put online for all to see, forcibly outing gay teens into a less-than-friendly national environment.
(Fair warning: the video is difficult to watch at times.)
This is absolutely, completely, and in no uncertain terms unacceptable. There are no shades of gray here. Regardless of one's religious views or feelings on homosexuality or whatever, no one has the right to torture and humiliate another human being, for any reason. The blood of every angry, scared, Russian homosexual driven to suicide because of their treatment at the hands of this twisted group (and there have been suicides) falls directly on the Kremlin's hands.
But the Kremlin and the majority of Russian citizens are standing idly by and watching, even encouraging Occupy Pedophilyaj's behavior (despite the fact that several of their actions clearly violate Russian law). Russia is a conservative country, deeply rooted in Orthodox traditions that, unfortunately, intensely condemn homosexuality. Until change comes from the top and unjust prejudices are no longer encoded in law, groups like this will continue to form and continue to do terrible things to those who are unable to defend themselves.
And how will change come from the top? It may only succeed if the rest of the world puts on Russia a type of pressure it can understand — namely, economic pressure. The 2014 Olympics are in Sochi, and though it breaks my heart to say it (I am the biggest, weirdest fan of the Olympics that ever was or ever will be), perhaps a boycott should be seriously discussed. We should not stand idly by while innocent children are being tortured for kicks, and short of saving every gay man, woman, and child in the most ridiculously massive country in the world, we have to do what we can: hurt Russia in a way they can physically grasp, and hopefully show them that in a civilized world, this kind of unadulterated cruelty is not okay.