Human Rights Watch Calls For Overhaul Of Homophobic Views In Russia Ahead Of The Olympics, Releases Video Of Gay Men Beaten On Camera

screen shot via YouTube/HumanRightsWatch

Just two days before the Sochi Olympics are set to start, concerns over Russian homophobia and hate crimes continue to grow.

In a last-minute push for change, international nonprofit Human Rights Watch released a video to show just how bad the country is for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The video shows disturbing footage of numerous attacks against gay people.

Gleb Latnik, an LGBT activist in Russia, explained the general feelings of homophobic Russians. “People think that an LGBT person is not a human being, but simply a toy they can play with,” he said in the video. “If such a person is walking on the street, they think, ‘Why not punch him?’”

The video explains how one vigilante group, Occupy Pedophilia, systematically abuses LGBT individuals. The vigilantes lure LGBT people to specific places on the premise of a date. Then they berate, abuse and assault the people. In some cases, they threaten individuals’ lives and abuse them sexually.

The assaults are recorded and posted online later in order to further humiliate their victims, who appear to be mostly young, gay men.

I was punched in the forehead, and the bruises descended under my eyes. There was a lot of swelling, one eye didn’t open at all,” Latnik said of his own attack. “And when I went to the police to submit a claim, the officers at the station just said, ‘That’s alright, you’re gay so it’s normal that you were attacked. Why would you need to submit a complaint against someone?’ That’s how it goes.”

Tanya Cooper of Human Rights Watch ended the video with a call to action. “Russia should take active steps to investigate these homophobic crimes and bring the attackers to justice. It should also denounce publicly this violence and make sure that there is zero tolerance to homophobic crimes and violence in Russia,” she said.

She also wants the Russian government repeal the law that bans “homosexual propaganda.” The law, which was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, states that people can be arrested and fined for spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientations” among minors. The text of the law is vague and it’s often left to prosecutors and judges to interpret, according to the New York Times.

French news agency Agence France-Presse reported that Putin has given a vague response to the pleas for change. Speaking with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, Putin said, “I want to assure you that we will do everything so that Sochi is a hospitable home for all the participants, for all the guests.”

He added, “The main task is to make the Sochi Games a celebration for all sport lovers in the world… We will do everything to hold the Olympic Games at the very highest level.”