Fury as Russian social network bans gay partner status

Gay activist Nikolai Alekseev says protests against Russia’s largest social network, VKontakte, will change little while much of the country remains homophobic

Fury as Russian social network bans gay partner status
03 August 2012

Russian social network VKontakte has sparked fury after it banned a user from stating he was in a gay relationship.

A male user known only as Oleg allegedly wrote to the network’s administrators for help after being unable to select the ‘boyfriend’ option under his relationship status.

However, Oleg was outraged after the website refused to help him change his status.

While the website’s response have sparked anger from many in Russia’s LGBT community, gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseev says protests against the decision will have little impact.

‘It’s interesting to attract attention to this issue but I don’t think it will influence in any way the decision of the owners of the social network,’ Alekseev told Gay Star News.

‘Russia is such a homophobic country in many ways that even the commercial companies don’t really need to become gay friendly to attract new users.

‘That wouldn’t change anything and would give them problems from the heterosexual majority.’

He added that because the website is not breaking any laws, it is an ‘ethical issue and nothing more’.

‘The website is saying to the people who are asking for a change that according to Russian law there are no same-sex marriages and that’s why they don’t recognize them.

‘But from the point of view of bringing about social change and accepting what’s going on all over the world, they can do this if they want to. They could do it and it would not contradict Russian law. But they don’t want to do it.’

VKontakte press secretary Vladislav Tsypluhin has since confirmed that it is not planning to introduce same-sex relationship status.

Facebook launched a gay marriage icon in July for users who have indicated that they have wed a person of the same-sex.

Although it is not illegal to be gay in Russia, the country has become increasingly hostile to homosexuality, passing anti-gay laws in several districts.

St Petersburg notoriously introduced a bill which banned any so-called gay ‘propaganda’, effectively gagging the LGBT community from holding political and social events such as pride.

A gay pride march in Moscow has also been systematically blocked by authorities, leading to activists to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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