Sending out a strong message of support for for equal rights, Australian ambassador Graeme Meehan and top diplomats from the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand have called on Russia to protect the rights of the country’s LGBTQI citizens.

The joint statement signed by the ambassadors comes at a time of increased anti-LGBTQI statements from the Russian establishment, including president Vladmir Putin. Last week Putin had mocked the US embassy in Moscow for flying a rainbow flag to celebrate Pride month.

The statement signed by the ambassadors was issued on June 27, a few days before Putin’s statement.

“Joint statement by the heads of diplomatic missions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States calling on the Government of Russia to protect the rights of all citizens, including #LGBTI people. Celebrating the Month of Pride, we express our support for the activists and continue our work to protect human rights,” Meehan posted on twitter along with images of the statement in English and Russian.

“We, the undersigned Ambassadors and Charges d’ Affaires of Australia, Canada, New Zeland, the United Kingdom and the United States, affirm the inherent dignity of each individual as expressed in the Universal declaration of Human Rights and call upon the government of the Russian federation to adhere to its stated commitment to protecting the rights of all citizens, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

“Unfortunately, LGBTI individuals throughout the world continue to face violence, harassment and discrimination simply because of who they are, and law enforcement authorities often turn a blind eye to the hate speech and hate crimes that are still prevalent in many countries. This June, we celebrate Pride month by applauding LGBTI activists and their allies, who are working to ensure that every individual, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, receive the full protection of the law. Human rights are universal. Everyone is entitled to their full enjoyment,” the joint statement read.

 The statement was signed by ambassador Meehan, ambassador Alison LeClaire, Charge d’Affaires Kelsie Wilkinson of New Zealand, UK Ambassador Deborah Bronnert and US Ambassador John Sullivan.

Russia recently voted in a referendum that has paved the way for Putin to remain president till 2036. The referendum had sought a national vote on around 200 amendments to the Constitution, including changing the law to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

On July 3, Putin suggested that the rainbow flag raised at the US embassy reflected the sexual orientation of the staff saying it “revealed something about the people that work there.”

Before the referendum in February Putin had said that Russia would not legalise same sex marriages as long as he was President. “As far as ‘parent number 1’ and ‘parent number 2’ goes, I’ve already spoken publicly about this and I’ll repeat it again: As long as I’m President this will not happen. There will be dad and mum,” Putin had declared.

 Last week, Putin also reiterated his support for the country’s anti-propoganda law that bans information of non-traditional sexual relations to minors.

This law has been used to ban pride parades, arrests LGBTQI activists and fuelled attacks by far right groups. Yelena Grigoryeva, a well-known LGBTQI activist in St. Petersburg was stabbed to death in July 2019.

The anti-propaganda law has been taken to ludicrous lengths. Most recently, Ekaterina Lakhova who heads the Women’s Union of Russia asked Putin to ban “Rainbow” ice cream as she said it promoted non traditional values that were dangerous to children.

The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Lobby said that the organisation welcomed the joint statement.

“We welcome this statement from the Australian Ambassador to Russia calling on the Russian Government to adhere to its stated commitment to protecting the rights of all citizens, including the LGBTQI community,” the organisation said on Twitter.

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