Gay Rights,  Russia

Madonna defends LGBT rights in St Petersburg

On 7 August Madonna spoke out in support of Pussy Riot at her Moscow concert.  (The punk band is facing a prison sentence for ‘hooliganism’ aggravated by ‘religious hatred’.) This earned her an unpleasant rebuke from Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister:

“With age, every former s. tries to lecture everyone on morality,” Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister, wrote on Twitter late on Wednesday, using the first letter of the Russian word for “slut” or “whore”. “Especially during overseas tours.”

Now she has stood up for gay rights as well, giving out pink wrist bands at her St Petersburg concert, and inviting her fans to show their ‘love and appreciation’ for the gay community:

Madonna had promised to use her St Petersburg show to speak out against legislation adopted by the city in March that imposes fines for spreading homosexual “propaganda” that could “damage the health, moral and spiritual development” of minors.

On her Facebook page, she called the law a “ridiculous atrocity”.

The response of the Russian authorities echoes both the views one might more readily associate with strands within Islam and the rhetoric of the Cold War:

“In this case steps will be taken to open an administrative probe, and she will face a fine for violating this law,” said a spokeswoman for Vitaly Milonov, a member of the Saint Petersburg legislature.

“We should not allow the imposition here in Russia of Western values that Madonna promotes.”

Mr Milonov said earlier this week that Russian society would actively resist attempts to embrace “Western ideology”.

The Huffington Post reports another, more surprising, note of dissent.

“One should not mix showbusiness with human rights activism,” said gay rights activist Yuri Gavrikov, who picketed the concert venue. “If she wanted to support the LGBT community, she could have … refused to hold concerts in Russia.”

But by performing in Russia and challenging its repressive policies Madonna has probably done more to raise awareness of these issues than she could have done just by boycotting the country.