Gay activists vowed Thursday to hold protests during Madonna’s concerts in Russia after she defied a call to boycott Saint Petersburg over a new law banning “homosexual propaganda.”
Organisers of Russia’s annual gay pride events said in a statement they planned to hold “two public protests during Madonna’s August 7 concert in Moscow and August 9 concert in Saint Petersburg.”
Saint Petersburg this month passed a controversial citywide law that fines those “promoting homosexuality” to minors and apparently equates it with pedophilia, even though homosexuality is not a crime in Russia.
Activists, who had earlier called on tourists to boycott the picturesque tsarist-era city, accused Madonna of hypocrisy after the star confirmed she would go ahead with her Saint Petersburg concert despite the “ridiculous” law.
A promoter of gay causes throughout her career and an icon of its community, Madonna also promised to talk about it and condemn it on stage. But Russia’s gay activists remained unimpressed.
“If people like Madonna boycott their concerts – particularly in Saint Petersburg – that could have economic consequences, and that is important; while declarations of support for gay rights at concerts mean nothing.”
Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen had appealed to Madonna to pull out of the concerts in a Monday blog entry on the The New York Times‘ website.
But Madonna wrote Wednesday on Facebook: “I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed.”
Russia legalized homosexuality in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union but only ceased to class it as a mental disorder in 1999, and homophobic attitudes are still widespread.
Police have roughly broken up attempts to hold gay pride events in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The authorities regularly refuse to sanction such protests, citing the public’s negative attitude.