I like to think of myself as socially aware. I'm fully aware that the world is still a playground of power and influence for the white, heterosexual male whilst anyone else who fails to fit into this category is plagued with inequalities and discrimination at nearly every stage of their lives. Whereby Britain is a relatively forward-thinking society for those who are the victims of discrimination, the global environment is far less so.
I was initially surprised to be so shocked and disturbed by Liz Mackean's 'Dispatches' report this week on the harsh realities of life for gay people in Russia. After all, I knew of the gradual anti-gay ideology that was rearing its ugly head into the societal mind set in Russia, but I wasn't aware of the sheer severity of it. Of course the British government's legislation may have adverse affects that are unfairly weighted towards certain groups, but they've stopped way short of demonising one particular social group in an attempt to threaten them into silence. 'Hunted', however, depicted a harsh snapshot of what life is like for LGBT citizens in Russia in the 21st century - effectively being treated as 'prey' to be rooted out and abused into silence. If scenes of people being assaulted by gangs of thugs, merely for loving someone of the same sex aren't enough to galvanise others into action, I don't know what is. It is discrimination of the most sickening kind - a kind of discrimination that history has taught us occurs time and time again - attempts to peddle and subsequently evoke an eradication process of a societal threat that doesn't actually exist.
Just how shocking is it that gay and lesbian people around the world are still unable to venture into certain territories without fear of persecution or violence? Whilst that deeply disturbs me, some view this as a mere inevitability of the differing cultural norms and values that contribute to such diversity around the world. Clearly, by thinking this, individuals are confusing the idea of a simple commitment to human rights with an ideologically driven imposing of Western values upon the 'poor and innocent' far flung victims of westernisation. After all, in the weeks and months leading up to the Winter Olympics this year, national newspapers provided platforms for various social commentators to express their dismay at why the Winter Olympics were being so politicised by those that the aforementioned writers and social commentators perceived to be overly sensitive left-wing lunatics. It seemed that until the images of normalised violence and hate against LGBT people in Russia were forced into the foreground of public debate by a brutally honest and lifelike documentary, there was not even a debate to be had or a problem to be grappled with for the most part. It simply wasn't on the mainstream agenda.
Indeed, so often we hear of the 'gay agenda' - or the association of feminism with whining, unhappy women. Is this in part due to the significant progresses that have been made over the last forty to fifty years in the Western world that have seen a gradual shift in societal values towards those who were once so vehemently discriminated against? The great leaps and strides that have been made in the West to counter institutionalised discrimination are, indeed, phenomenal. Yet, we mustn't use these as a mandate to think that the battle for equality has been won. A brief gaze into the pockets of the world where ritualised discrimination in every sense of the word is a normalised societal practice will bring you crashing back down the harsh reality - we still have a large mountain to climb before we can say that equality is a realistic prospect.