By Sharanya Gopinathan
It’s been widely reported that there have been mass arrests of hundreds of homosexual men in the Russian federal republic of Chechnya, and that these men are being detained, tortured and even killed in the first concentration camps for homosexuals since Nazi Germany. Amnesty International has said that three men have been killed.
The Chechen government has had the strangest reactions to these allegations. Alvi Karimov, a spokesperson for the government, asserted that the allegations were untrue, but the reason why is alarming: he said you cannot arrest or suppress people who just don’t exist in the republic. Kheda Saratova, who is somehow on the Human Rights Council in Chechnya, said that the justice system of that country would treat anyone who killed a gay relative with “understanding”. She later said that her statements had been misunderstood, and that the allegation that gay men actually existed in Chechnya had interfered with her ability to think clearly. (Halfway across the world, United States White House press secretary Sean Spicer also seems to be unable to think clearly about concentration camps: he just made several controversial statements on what he very uniquely referred to as “Holocaust centers”).
While what’s happening in Chechnya is horrifying beyond belief, it’s not that far a cry from what happens all over the world. The US is currently rolling back several protections afforded to LGBTQ people, homosexual relationships are illegal in 74 countries, and punishable by death in ten.
India doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to it’s treatment of people from the LGBTQ community. Not only is the infamous Sec. 377 still in place, but gay people continue to be misunderstood and discriminated against. In May 2016, the Hamsafar Trust started a campaign called #QueersAgainstQuacks to bring people together to resist and fight back against doctors who claimed to have “cures” for homosexuality and who practiced conversion therapy, which refers to the variety of practices that claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation. Conversion therapy is based in the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be “cured”, which is obviously rubbish, because there’s nothing to cure.