Russian president Vladimir Putin’s conveniently timed op-ed appeared in the New York Times on September 11, 2013. This prompted an outburst of positive and negative feelings on the Internet about his stance on American intervention in Syria. As I read Putin’s letter to the American people, one paragraph stood out. Putin said he felt that if America strikes Syria, it would hurt more innocent victims.
Innocent victims … like anyone in Russia who happens to be LGBTQ?
For Putin to speak on any level about protecting innocent people is sideways to say the least. Since Russian Parliament essentially banned speaking about gay issues, people have been beaten in the streets, protesters have been bombarded with eggs, and law enforcement has done nothing to stop this from happening.
On June 30, Putin signed a bill banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” This basically takes away the rights of Russian LGBTQ citizens. What does “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” exactly mean? The bill’s article explains it as distributing information aimed at the creating or making attractive of nontraditional sexual attitudes, equating social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, and creating an interest in sexual relations.
While I am not a part of the LGBTQ community, I certainly consider myself an advocate for their rights as human beings. Putin’s op-ed was a strong-armed slap in the face to the goal of establishing equal rights for LGBTQ communities around the world. While he may have scored points with some Americans, he strengthened my distaste for his political stance on human rights in Russia.
If Putin really wanted the American people to take his advice on human rights, he should take steps to reverse Russia’s homophobic bill and make some anti-hate propaganda of his own. Instead, he talks about human rights like they aren’t a constant in the world.
While what is happening in Syria is more heinous than anything happening in Russia, it seems silly for a president who has no problem disregarding human rights in his own country to speak as an advocate for Syrian human rights. It seems even more wrong since his rhetoric is on a global level. It makes his entire op-ed seem insincere and more like a political move than a heartfelt plea.
The bottom line is that Vladimir Putin shouldn’t be writing op-eds to the New York Times on human rights. By no means is Russia a monument to humanity, and in some cases, its government is reminiscent of a Salem style witch-hunting court. So no, we sensible Americans do not accept your words, Mr. Putin. Better luck next time.