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Not so gay times in Russia

The launch of an anti-gay flag and calls to ban the rainbow-colored gay flag in Russia is yet another example of a bureaucracy gone mad, as Fiona Clark writes from Moscow.

Summer is a great time for picnics. It's a point not lost on the pro-Putin party, United Russia. It chose this week to launch its 'straight pride' flag at a picnic for "real families" in a Moscow city park.

The flag, a modified version of one produced by a French organization, shows a male and female couple with three children. It comes in three colors, based on the Russian flag, red, blue and white, with the family members holding hands and the slogan #НастоящаяCемья or #realfamily underneath them.

Alexey Lisovenko, United Russia's deputy head in Moscow, said the flag would form part of a social media campaign promoting traditional family values.

"This is our answer to same sex marriages. The meaning of 'family' is being tortured. We must stop the gay fever in our country and support traditional values," Lisovenko told the media.

More than 1,000 people were invited to attend the picnic but even with United Russia's well-versed ability to bus-in-a-crowd, photos of the event suggest far fewer ‘real families' showed up, even with the lure of celebrity singers and traditional Russian music to revel in, not to mention the opportunity for happy families to have their photo taken in the ‘arch of love'.

What the event has done though is to throw the spotlight, once more, on Russia's now galloping conservatism and allow the critics - yes there are still some - to have a field day.

Commentators asked how much this was going to cost the budget during an economic crisis and labelled the organisers as 'homophobes.' An opinion piece in Gazeta.ru, an online news service, noted that the waist line on the woman on the Russian version was a little larger than her French counterpart. It also questioned the make-up of the family asking questions like 'what if I'm in a wheel chair' or 'what if I don't have a mother?' Those scenarios certainly didn't match the 'real family,' it noted.

In a country that has the highest divorce rate in the world according to the United Nations with 54 percent of married couples going their separate ways in 2012, it's more likely than not that a child will be raised by a single parent and therefore by United Russia's definition, will no longer be part of a real family.

The real reasons for divorce

Even the president is divorced and rumors about his affair with a former Olympic gymnast have circulated for years along with speculation that he has had not one, but two, 'love-children' with her. Nothing like leading from the top.

And when you look at the main reasons for divorce a survey by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center shows the main cause is infidelity (24 percent). Poverty (21 percent), and an inability to compromise, misunderstanding, selfishness and conflict (19 percent) are next, and the only surprise here is that alcoholism and drug abuse comes in in 4th place with 16 percent citing it as a reason.

Lisovenko also told the press he wanted to get the well-known rainbow flag banned on the territory of Russia. He wanted it put in the same bag as the swastika and if it were used in print or online for propaganda purposes the offending publishers should be prosecuted.

Ban the Rainbow Flag

woman in theatre copyright: Fiona Clark

Fiona Clark writes regular columns for DW from Moscow

To even suggest putting these two symbols in the same bag shows once more just how out of touch to the point of madness the members of United Russia are. This suggestion follows others like banning nylon underwear, canvas shoes, ballet flats and high heels because they're bad for your health. And if these suggestions are the ones that get put up as a real possibility, imagine the ones that don't make it? Mind-boggling. Surely in a time of economic crisis they could find some more important things to focus on - like alleviating poverty - the reason why 1/5th of marriages fail.

In light of that the portrayal of three children is an optimistic one. The government has been encouraging families to have more than one child to reverse the declining population but in this economic uncertainty it's more than likely any gains there will be short-lived.

If they really want to preserve family values they should start by providing good sex education in schools so girls don't get pregnant and end up married at 19 and divorced by 24 and making some serious moves to redistribute wealth and end the poverty that 18 million people or 13 percent of the population live in. Those two moves will support traditional family values far more than focusing on a so-called gay fever. That's one fever that's not contagious.

Incidentally, the French organization whose flag United Russia modified is not impressed. It says its aim is the protection of families and has nothing to do with homophobia.

Fiona Clark is an Australian journalist currently living in Russia. She started her career with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as a TV news reporter in the mid-1980’s. She has spent the past 10 years working on publications such as The Lancet and Australian Doctor and consumer health websites. This is her second stint in Moscow, having worked there from 1990-92. What was to be a two-year posting is still continuing.

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