The couple, originally from China and Georgia respectively, were taken into custody on Wednesday, April 5th, after a video they posted on YouTube drew attention from authorities.
As bloggers, Xu and Gogishvili frequently document their lives as a same-s3x couple living in Russia, sharing their experiences and struggles with viewers on various social media platforms including TikTok and Telegram. Unfortunately, their efforts to shed light on LGBTQ+ issues in Russia have led to their arrest.
According to reports, Xu was stopped in what appeared to be a routine ID check and was subsequently found to be without his passport. Later on, the couple was arrested while at a police station and charged under Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, a discriminatory measure that effectively criminalizes any public expression of LGBTQ+ identity or affection.
This latest incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights in Russia and the immense challenges faced by members of the community in the country.
As advocates continue to push for greater protections and equality, it is clear that there is still much work to be done to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals can live freely and openly without fear of persecution or discrimination.
In an exclusive interview with Newsweek, Haoyang Xu and Gela Gogishvili revealed that they were initially prevented from speaking to lawyers and felt “pressured” into signing several documents following their arrest by Russian authorities.
While the police didn’t confiscate their phones, they were able to spread the word about their detention to supporters who called the station, eventually securing them access to a legal representative.
Although Gogishvili has since been released from jail, Xu still remains in custody as of this writing. The couple’s lawyer, Adel Khaydarshin, has stated that Xu and Gogishvili could be facing a fine of up to 50,000 rubles (501) or even imprisonment.
Their case is set to be heard in court on Thursday, April 6th, as per reports.
Xu and Gogishvili, who have been living together in Kazan since 2021, have amassed a significant following on social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube, with 377,000 followers and over 65,000 subscribers respectively.
In their latest video posted on April 1st, the couple discussed the dangers of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law and how it could negatively impact the queer community across the country.
The ongoing persecution of individuals like Xu and Gogishvili highlights the need for greater protection and support for LGBTQ+ individuals in Russia and around the world. As advocates continue to fight for equal rights and representation, it is crucial that we stand in solidarity with those who are facing discrimination and persecution for simply being who they are.
Due to constant intimidation and death threats, we have to hide for some time, the videos description read.
We are very afraid for our lives, we have been afraid to write anything online for a long time and actively consulted with lawyers of major human rights organisations.
Vladimir Komov, senior partner of the Moscow-based DELO LGBTQ+ group toldNewsweekthat Kazan police has been investigating the pair since March.
Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law
In November 2022, Vladimir Putin signed amendments to Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda” law, which has now been extended to include adults.
The legislation prohibits the distribution of any content that is deemed to promote “non-traditional values, LGBT, feminism, and a distorted representation of traditional s3xual values”. It is worth noting that the law was initially introduced with the aim of protecting minors from exposure to such content.
Individuals who are found to have violated the law can face fines of up to 400,000 roubles (5,466), while private companies may be fined up to five million roubles (68,327) if they are in breach of the policy. These strict penalties serve as a chilling reminder of the ongoing persecution of the LGBTQ+ community in Russia, as well as the urgent need for greater protections for marginalized groups.
The enforcement of this law has led to the silencing and persecution of individuals who dare to express their identities and speak out against discrimination. As advocates continue to push for equal rights and representation, it is crucial that we stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for their voices to be heard and their identities to be recognized.