In a new human rights report, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to gays as “queers.”
The report, issued on December 19, 2013, ostensibly is a look at the human rights situation in the European Union. Though you’d be hard pressed to find a human rights report that uses slurs against minorities.
You’ve found one now.
AMERICAblog has obtained a copy of the English-language version of the report, translated into English by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself – it’s in PDF format – and it contains the following paragraph:
Here’s the transcript of the offending passage:
Attempts have been made to enforce on other countries an alien view of homosexuality and same-sex marriages as a norm of life and some kind of a natural social phenomenon that deserves support at the state level. Such an approach encounters resistance not only in the countries upholding traditional values, but also in those countries which have always taken a liberal attitude towards queers. Suffice it to recall the protest reaction of a major part of the French society to the decision on legalization of same-sex marriages in the country. [emphasis added]
What’s possibly even more offensive is that the Russian version of the document – assuming it hasn’t been changed (the English version has not been changed, it still says “queers”) – is rather benign in how it references gays in the relevant paragraph. Here’s the English sentence, written by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in English:
Such an approach encounters resistance not only in the countries upholding traditional values, but also in those countries which have always taken a liberal attitude towards queers.
And here’s the original Russian version:
Подобный подход встречает сопротивление не только в странах, придерживающихся традиционных ценностей, но и там, где всегда существовало либеральное отношение к людям с нетрадиционной ориентацией.
In the English, they say “queers.” In the Russian, they say “нетрадиционной ориентацией,” which even I with my limited background in Russian (I studied it for a year in college), can read as “nontraditional orientations,” which Google translator translates to “gay,” and my friendly neighborhood Russian political asylum applicant friend also translates as “nontraditional orientations,” aka “gay.” So, why then did someone in the Russian Foreign Ministry take the phrase “nontraditional orientations” and translate it to a word that, when used pejoratively, has a meaning akin to “f*ggots”?
“Queer” is a derogatory term in American English for a gay person. It is akin in severity to the word “f*g.” One business associate of mine suggested that there was nothing wrong with the Russians disparaging gays as “queers” since young gays use the term all the time. Well, actually, we reclaimed the word “queer,” not “queers” – there is a difference in usage between saying the “queer community” and someone anti-gay calling gays “queers.” And in any case, some segments of the black community use the n-word. So people who oppress blacks, and who are violent towards blacks, are okay to use the n-word? Please. And some gays, myself included, will sometimes use the word “f*g.” If you’re an anti-gay bigot, and you use that term, good luck defending it. Context is everything, and don’t tell me for a minute that the Russians are slurring with us rather than slurring at us.
The report containing the slur was disseminated via the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official Twitter account, and was spotted by Buzzfeed’s Max Seddon who mentioned it in a tweet:
The use of the anti-gay slur by the Russian Foreign Ministry comes on the heels of a draconian anti-gay crackdown in the country. This past summer, Russia passed a law banning “gay propaganda” – a law that basically makes it illegal to be openly gay in Russia, and makes it illegal for anyone, including straight people, to express an opinion supportive of gays.
As a result, violence against gays and other minorities increased markedly in Russia, including the formation of vigilante groups that kidnap young gay teens and then torture them on camera – the videos are then posted on Russian social media. The Russian government has refused to prosecute the perpetrators, even though their faces, and home towns, are clearly visible in the videos.
This increase in violence, both racist and homophobic, has led to concerns about the athletes and guests attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi next month. The Russian authorities have said in the past that they will arrest any Olympians, or guests, who run afoul of the “propaganda” law.