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The Rise of the Right

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Earlier this year I reported in an article for QX Magazine upon the 'anti-gay propaganda' legislation being passed in Russia, effectively banning the mention of the word 'gay' upon the streets of large, otherwise cosmopolitan cities such as St Petersburg.

Fast forward to October/November, and not only are these Russian laws still fully in force, recently backed by the country's Supreme Court, but the sentiment of homophobic bureaucracy crushing freedom of speech/expression has traveled beyond its borders, to infiltrate many of the former Soviet Bloc satellite states that adjoin the vast country.

It is perhaps most pertinently evidenced in the Ukraine, where at the start of October a law punishing those who 'spread homosexuality' with five years' imprisonment was advanced through the country's parliament. Initially introduced in May in the wake of Russia's controversial actions, the bill was thought thwarted and this sudden Autumnal return was unwelcome news to many LGBT citizens and pro-rights campaigners living in the state.

As we were going to press (Oct 30th), news had just broke that extremist Ukraine political party Svoboda had taken about 9% of the vote, or 33 of 450 seats, in the country's parliamentary elections. This is a record result for a party most notoriously renowned for its 'fascist policies', with links to the BNP and Hungary's Joibbik party, and an intimidating prospect for the Ukraine's minority groups and LGBT citizens.

Svoboda, whose name translates as 'freedom', are said to have enjoyed a surge in popularity this year as the strongest alternative to the incumbent Party of Regions, whose support has seemingly dropped in proportion to the economic state of the nation.

Elsewhere, in the Republic of Moldova many areas provide against the 'aggressive propagation of homosexual, bisexual and polygamous relationships'; the far right Jobbik group in Hungary seeks an initiative of the same ilk and is active in its intimidation of LGBT events such as Budapest Pride; similar policies have been witnessed in Latvia and Lithuania. One poll in Poland found that 88% of its population opposed same-sex marriage.

Behind the majority of the bills lies the reasoning by their proponents that unchecked propaganda of homosexuality in their counties will lead at best to the innate 'homosexualisation' of their children and, at worse, to a dark army of LGBT vampires intent on destroying not only the sacred institution of the family but also heterosexuality itself.

It is the clever tact of a political factor to portray themselves to the general populace as the rescuers of potential victims; bringing in a pre-meditated salvation from the evil gays with their shining bill of gold and light.

Which means that the average citizens of a nation can engage guilt-free with fascist policies feeling they are doing right in protecting their children and families, and not, as they are in fact doing, deliberately silencing and targeting a much-victimized minority.

Of course, these actions have not come without their detractors and it is perhaps some comfort that both the UN and the European Parliament have spoken out vehemently against the actions. Rupert Colville, speaking on behalf of the UN's human rights office, said of Ukraine's planned policy, "[it] is clearly discriminatory and runs counter to Ukraine's international commitments to ensure freedom of expression and information". The European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the anti-gay laws, calling on all the countries considering anti-gay legislation to 'demonstrate and ensure respect for, the principle of non-discrimination.'

Almost all of the countries mentioned are European Union member states, entailing that they should need to abide by the European Convention of Human Rights, with Moldova facing the most to lose given that it is attempting access to EU membership at the moment. However, their position in Europe next to one another entails that there is also solidarity in numbers; once one country adopts a bill of this sort, it ratifies the same adoption of its neighbour.

This domino effect of Russia's lead is sadly worrying not only because of the freedom of speech and anti-equal rights suppression it depicts, but also the backwards trend for ostensible attitudes to homosexuality in Eastern Europe it simultaneously evidences.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the emancipation of these states from Soviet rule, homosexuality was decriminalized in all former Soviet states as freedom for all and the light of the future were the optimistic visions of the time.

However, perhaps the passage of time has provided a future that has not proved as rose-tinted as many have imagined, and that these counties are not quite as free of Russia's potentially neo-Soviet influence as they would like to proscribe themselves.

Why has this 'rise of the right' exploded in these countries so spectacularly in the past few years? How has it come to disturbing prominence in 2012? Economic hardship and the wave-like antagonism far-right groups can surf upon the heads of the disgruntled is one answer, but there has also been a recession in the West of Europe and, for all the issues we still may hold, the idea that you may not be able to mention the word 'gay' on the streets in Paris or London is thankfully a nigh on impossible concept in our immediate futures.

With the celebration of post-1991 years and achieving autonomy perhaps these governments did not consider that they might need to do more to emancipate their population's minds from fascist rule, and therefore funds for raising equality awareness and developing integrity processes were never realised. Changing the law does not change an ideology, as evidenced by the rewind process of the current laws in these countries. Alas, the price of ignorance always comes with a victim's payment.

This article was originally printed in QX Magazine. Link available here: http://www.qxmagazine.com/feature/the-rise-of-the-right/