Persecution of LGBTQ+ People as an Authoritarian Practice: Russia and Kenya

Monday, May 13, 2024 Pushkin House 5a Bloomsbury Square London WC1A 2TA

Over the past decade a distressing pattern has emerged: the persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals, paralleled by the rise of authoritarian regimes. The blend of conservatism and authoritarianism seems to systematically target otherness, and especially queer communities, all over the world. This issue is even more challenging in war-torn regions. What does it mean for local communities, new generations and changing global contexts?


In the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a wave of neo-colonialism has swept across the region, perpetuating a systemic suppression of LGBTQ+ rights. In Russia, discriminatory legislation, culminating in a recent Supreme Court ruling branding LGBTQ+ individuals as "extremists", marks a devastating regression three decades after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993. The strategic deployment of anti-gay rhetoric by the Russian regime serves multiple purposes: distracting from pressing socio-economic issues, fostering anti-Western sentiment, and consolidating power through the marginalisation of minority groups. This systemic oppression has led to a stark increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals, detrimentally affecting the lives of ordinary people who seek to live authentically and freely. In light of these developments, this event will explore the past thirty years of LGBTQ+ history in Russia – from the landmark decriminalisation to the present-day "extremist" designation.


In the African continent, the struggle to cast off colonial narratives has collided with ingrained concepts of “normal”, scapegoating and prejudice. In Kenya, the post-colonial “Section 162”, which mandates punishment for queer sexual contact by up to twenty one years' imprisonment, was upheld by the Constitutional Court in 2019. Kenyan society is highly conservative, and a large majority of people hold negative views of LGBTQ+ people. Despite this, public support has slowly grown, and various organisations are working to protect and improve LGBTQ+ rights. The politics surrounding what is generally described as "sexual orientation and gender identity" (SOGI) have received an astounding degree of public and international attention in recent years. To complicate matters further, much of the homo/bi/transphobia is institutionally embedded by colonising powers.


This conversation, moderated by Denis Maksimov, will focus on the intersection of authoritarianism, colonial legacies, and LGBTQ+ persecution in a comparative context.

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