International News

Move to ban LGBTQ+ characters from film and TV in Russia will “increase homophobia”, say Amnesty International

Graham Robson January 21, 2023

Amnesty International has warned that a likely move by Russia’s media regulator to ban films and television series with LGBTQ+ characters will further stigmatise LGBTQ+ people in the country.

Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor is currently considering a draft order that would regulate the implementation of a new homophobic law adopted in December with regard to publishing content online, including film-streaming services. It’s expected that the order will be adopted in the coming days and enter into force on 1 September 2023.

According to the draft regulation, references in online materials aimed at – among other things – “encouraging the attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations”, “creating a distorted idea of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations”, and “forming a positive attitude towards changing the biological sex of a person”, must be deleted, with a failure to comply meaning that sites could be blocked by the authorities and fines of up to £65,000 imposed.

Roskomnadzor has recently suggested that online streaming services should delete movies and TV series – including Brokeback Mountain, Call Me By Your Name, HBO’s The Sex Lives Of College Girls and several episodes of the BBC One drama This Is Going To Hurt. According to the Vedomosti newspaper, this suggestion already appears to have led to streaming providers removing these from their platforms.

Brokeback Mountain

Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director, said: “The Russian authorities are preparing to further scapegoat and stigmatise LGBTQ+ people in the country through new homophobic legislation, including by perversely banning globally acclaimed movies like Brokeback Mountain and Call Me By Your Name.

“This unabashed censorship shows that the Russian authorities are wholly out of step with human rights, willing to blatantly violate the right to freedom of expression.

“Disguised as ‘protecting traditional values’, this outrageous move will not only further stigmatise millions of LGBTQ+ people but expose them to increasing discrimination and stigma, hostility and violent acts.

“This censorship directive, not to mention the anti-LGBTQ+ law itself, must be immediately repealed.

“It’s time for Russia to stop promoting and endorsing discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and understand and recognise that their rights are human rights.”