The LGBT-friendly non-profit organization Maximum offers psychological services, legal advice and a place to meet with friends. The House of Equality is supposed to be a safe place in Murmansk for the LGBT community.
“It is already hard for gays and lesbians to be open because of the high level of homophobia in our society,” a representative of Maximum says in an e-mail to BarentsObserver after Russia’s Ministry of Justice announced that the organization will have to brand itself as “Foreign Agent.”
“The Foreign Agent status concerns only those who are our activists and does not influence the rest of the LGBT-community. Those who decided to be open are open regardless to any organizational status,” the Maximum representative says.
The stigma and prejudice of homosexuality in Russia has gained nationwide support after President Vladimir Putin in 2013 signed a law prohibiting spreading of gay propaganda among minors.
As BarentsObserver previously has reported, there are about 100 random acts of violence between members of the LGBT community and anti-gay activistsin Murmansk per year. In December last year, a group of Orthodox activists tried to block the work Maximum in the House of Equality, the blog 7x7 reports.
Maximum was founded in Murmansk in 2009 to help gays and lesbians. The organization has since got projects funding from the Nordic Council of Ministers and from partner organizations in Sweden and the Netherlands. Funding from abroad is the problem, according to the Ministry of Justice.
In 2012 Russia’s parliament adopted a law that requires non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to register as “Foreign Agents” if they are engage in political activity and receive foreign funding.
The law triggered massive protests from other nations and organizations.
Human Right Watch says the law aims to demonize and marginalize independent advocacy groups. “The definition of political activity under the law is so broad and vague that it can be extended,” Human Right Watch claims.
Head of the Council of Europe and former Prime Minister of Norway, Thorbjørn Jagland, voiced strong critic against the law and compared it with “Stalin-era justice.”
The Maximum representative says in the e-mail to BarentsObserver that with the “Foreign Agent” stamp, their organization must make more detailed and more exhausting reports to the Government. Also, the funds to be received are extremely limited.
“We plan not to accept the status. We plan to defend our opinion in court.” Maximum has no plans to stop working, but might change its status to be “an initiative group or something else.”
It was TASS news-agency that first reported about the decision to include Maximum into the “Foreign Agent” list, a list that so far contains 35 NGOs in Russia.
Maximum is the second NGO in Barents Russia placed on the list. In November last year, a Murmansk court ruled that Humanist Youth Movement had to declare as “Foreign Agents” BarentsObserver reported.
The organization appealed the decision and the appeal case will soon come up for the court again.