Inside Russia’s growing LGBTQIA+ conversion therapy gulags

Moscow's St Basil's Cathedral in Red Square
Forced LGBTQIA+ conversion therapy is a growing phenomenon in Russia. Moscow's St Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. Photo by Anton Zelenov/Wikipedia Creative Commons.

LGBTIQA+ Russians are speaking out about a growing private sector conversion therapy industry in their country, which they fear will only grow in the shadow of a November court decision that declared the “international LGBT public movement” a banned “extremist” ideology.

One of Russia’s last remaining LGBTIQA+ advocacy groups, DELO LGBT+ was forced to close following the ruling but was already receiving an average of 14 requests for legal assistance each month from people who were under threat of being sent to privatised “conversion therapy” treatment centres by their families or were in the process of escaping them.

“After these [new] laws, the number of people facing threats to be put in such institutions has increased,” Vladimir Komov, a former lawyer with DELO LGBT+, told The Washington Post earlier this month.

The Washington Post spoke to a 23-year-old transgender non-binary person who was forced to undergo months of attempted conversion therapy at a remote treatment centre in the Altai region of Siberia.

They were tricked into traveling to the treatment centre by their mother who had told them she wanted them with her for support while she underwent heart surgery.

Instead their phone was confiscated and they were bundled inside the treatment centre.

They reported being beaten and being forced to swim in a river during freezing temperatures as well as forced labour as part of attempts to masculinise them which also included being made to slaughter animals “to help myself to become a man.”

In one incident they recounted being forced to castrate a pig which their captors likened to gender reassignment surgery.

She was also medicated with psychiatric drugs during her nine months of confinement in “Freedom Rehabilitation Centre.”

Another transgender Russian told The Washington Post about the 21 months that she was forced to stay in several “treatment” centres by her wealthy parents where she was housed with drug addicts and alcoholics who were also receiving forced treatments.

She says that she was told that being LGBTIQA+ was a form of addiction and that it would ruin her life.

She also says she was given psychiatric medications as well as being threatened with violence by the other people being held in the facility.

This woman said that she was only freed after breaking a staircase fitting and threatening to destroy more property unless she was released.

This is not the first time that LGBTIQA+ people have complained about extrajudicial detention as part of efforts to convert them to being heterosexual or cis-gender inside the Russian Federation.

In 2017 and again in 2019 over 150 LGBTIQA+ people in the Russian republic of Chechnya were abducted into torture camps with some still missing or feared killed.

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Andrew M Potts

Andrew has been covering LGBTQIA+ issues for a range of publications in Australia over two decades and was the Asia-Pacific correspondent for global LGBTQIA+ news website Gay Star News.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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