Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Attitudes toward Gay and Lesbian Individuals in Russia: An Exploration of the Interpersonal Contact Hypothesis and Personality Factor

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Attitudes toward Gay and Lesbian Individuals in Russia: An Exploration of the Interpersonal Contact Hypothesis and Personality Factor

Article excerpt

Pages: 21-34

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2017.0202

Keywords: attitudes, gay, lesbian, bisexual, GLB Rights, personality characteristics, NEO-FFI, interpersonal contact

Downloads: 155

Introduction

Although former Russian President Boris Yeltsin decriminalized male homosexuality in 1993, and homosexuality was removed as an official mental disorder by the Ministry of Health in 1999, gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) sexual orientations and identities remain stigmatized in contemporary Russian society (Khazan, 2013). In the decade following decriminalization, GLB people appeared to disclose their sexual orientation to a greater degree, while non-profit organizations which were focused on GLB rights developed, and in some cases flourished, suggesting important gains for the acceptance of Russian GLB people (Horne, Ovrebo, Levitt & Franeta, 2010). Currently, however, Russian GLB people find themselves the targets of a wave of anti-GLB policies that have been instituted since Vladimir Putin’s reelection in 2012, including the 2013 federal law “For the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values,” also referred to as the Propaganda Ban on Non-Traditional Sexual Relations.

This bill effectively renders illegal any actions that equalize same-sex relationships and GLB identities in the presence of minors, including gay pride parades, or which affirm GLB identities or same-sex relationships in person or on the Internet (Elder, 2013; Shkel, 2013). Regional bans on “propaganda of homosexualism” followed suit in areas of Russia ranging from Magadan Oblast in the Far East to Krasnodar Krai in the South. In addition, in 2014, federal restrictions were passed with respect to adoption by single GLB people, or by same-sex couples in countries that permit same-sex marriage. Since same-sex marriage is not legal in Russia, same-sex Russian couples are not allowed to adopt (Human Rights Campaign, 2014).

Russia consistently ranks among the most negative of democratic countries in anti-GLB attitudes (Pew Research Center, 2013). In a cross-national study that asked the question whether same-gender sexuality was “always wrong,” 54.2 % of Russian participants endorsed this view in 1998, while 64.2 % did so a decade later in 2008-a reversal of the global trend toward greater acceptance found in most democracies. In this 2013 Pew study, Russia ranked among the countries showing the least favorable attitudes, with only 8.3 % of the participants reporting that same-gender sexuality was not wrong at all. As recently as 2015, in a survey of 800 Russians over the age of 18 and living in 46 different regions of the country, 37 % reported that homosexuality is an illness that must be medically treated; 26 % reported that homosexuality is the result of a bad upbringing or promiscuity; and 13 % believed that homosexuality was a result of sexual seduction or abuse (Levada Center, 2015). Only 11 % reported that homosexuality was a sexual orientation from birth that warranted the same rights as a heterosexual orientation. In 2013, in a survey of 1600 respondents, 5 % reported that homosexuals should be liquidated, a Russian euphemism for killing, wiping out, or disposing of people (Levada Center, 2013).

These prevailing negative attitudes do not appear to differ a great deal from the results of earlier research on attitudes toward homosexuality during the Perestroika period, or shortly after Russia became an independent state. According to the late Igor Kon, the country’s most noted sexologist, homosexuals were the most stigmatized of all social groups (Kon, 2002). In a poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) in 1989, with a representative sample of people from Russia, 27 % favored “liquidation,” and 32 % endorsed isolation for homosexuals. Only 12% favored “leaving them alone,” and a mere 6% endorsed helping them (Kon & Riordan, 1993). …

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