March 24, 2012

Madonna vs. the Russian Orthodox Church On Gay Rights

Paul Carsten
March 23, 2012

The singer, proclaiming herself a "freedom fighter", vowed to challenge a new law in the city of St Petersburg which prohibits the "propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia among minors".

This "propaganda", according to the bill, threatens to "damage the health, moral and spiritual development of the underaged." Madonna, who is planning a tour of Russia this summer, called the legislation a "ridiculous atrocity" on her Facebook page. She wrote: "I will come to St Petersburg to speak up for the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed." Signed into law in March by Mayor of St Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko, a former KGB operative and close ally of President-elect Vladimir Putin, the legislation has, according to gay rights groups, effectively outlawed any and all gay rights and gay awareness events.

Individuals found guilty of propagating the "false perception that traditional and non-traditional relationships are socially equal" can be fined as much as £10,000. Organisations may be penalised by up to £100,000.

The law has also been criticised for equating homosexuality with paedophilia.

But the Russian Orthodox Church, which regards homosexuality as a sin, has called for the law to be nationalised.

Various attempts to hold gay rights events in Moscow, which authorities have ruled illegal, resulted in multiple arrests and clashes with ultra-Orthodox believers. These believers claim that homosexuals should be punished or receive treatment in hospital for their "illness".

Madonna has already clashed with the Orthodox Church after the church's activists protested against her singing "Live to Tell" while strung up on a crucifix and wearing a crown of thorns during a 2006 concert in Moscow.

However, this time she has also been slammed as a 'hypocrite' by organisers of gay pride events.

"We intend to protest against the hypocrisy of pop stars. In Russia they have fantastic earnings and this allows them to forget about the problems of human rights," Yuri Gavrikov, head of St Petersburg's Gay Russia movement, told AFP.

"If people like Madonna boycott their concerts, particularly in St Petersburg, that could have economic consequences, and that is important, while declarations of support for gay rights at concerts mean nothing."

The European Court of Human Rights fined Russia in 2010 for banning homosexual parades in Moscow.