Human Rights Activists: On Eve of Sochi Olympics Russia is 'Turning a Blind Eye' to Abuse of Gay People

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Russian authorities are failing to address rising homophobia and "concerted abuse" against gay people and activists, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday.

The international, New York-based rights group says that just days before the Winter Olympics begin in the southern Russia resort city of Sochi, the "failure to act" and homophobic comments by some officials are exposing LGBT people to further harassment and violence by "emboldened" attackers.

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Tanya Cooper, a Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said, "by turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics, that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people."

An investigation by HRW found that 

LGBT people face stigma, harassment and violence in their everyday lives in Russia.

Victims of violence and LGBT groups said that these problems have worsened in 2013.

The report cites victims in cities including Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk who were attacked in public places, abducted, beaten, harassed, threatened and psychologically abused.

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They told HRW that they were afraid to go to the police to report violence, fearing further harassment and believing the police would not bother to pursue their attackers. When victims did lodge complaints with the police, few investigations followed. 

One man, dressed for an evening event, was abused and beaten on a metro train; another victim, a transgender woman, was abducted by four attackers in a car, stripped, beaten, had two toenails pulled out with pliers and left naked and bleeding in a ditch a 4½-hour walk from her home, according to HRW. Neither victim went to the police and the transgender woman was too afraid to go to a hospital.

As a member of the Council of Europe, and party to multiple human rights treaties, Russia should meet its obligations to provide equal respect and protection for LGBT people, HRW says.

"The Russian authorities have the power to protect the rights of LGBT people, but instead they are ignoring their responsibility to do so," Cooper added.

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