In 2013, the Russian government enacted a federal law criminalizing the promotion and distribution of materials in support of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors, but a group from Spain managed to skirt what many say are anti-LGBT laws and bring a human Pride flag to the streets of Russia.
The European Court of Human Rights, in a 6-to-1 decision last year, ruled that the propaganda law reinforces stigma, encourages homophobia, and discriminates against a vulnerable minority, which may harm children in the process. But the climate for LGBT people in Russia is still dangerous. Now, as the world has its eyes on Russia for the World Cup, the Spanish LBGT federation saw to protest this situation by infiltrating the country with the Rainbow flag and defying the current law, with a campaign called the 'Hidden Flag.'
The Federation (FELGTB), Spain’s largest organization for LGBT+ rights, sent six activists from six different countries to Russia. Each person wore the shirt from their home country and together they formed the Rainbow flag – red for Spain, orange for Holland, yellow for Brazil, green for Mexico, blue for Argentina and purple for Colombia. The project was documented on film and in photos on a dedicated website.
According to a release, a recent study from the Center for Independent Social Research found that hate crimes against the LGBT+ community have doubled since 2013, and Human Rights Watch International said: “Russian police consistently fail to prevent harassment and attacks and to investigate anti-LGBT crimes.”
Stated Uge Sangil, president of FELGTB Spain: "Becoming visible is a huge risk in Russia but doing it in front of thousands of fans and reporters during the World Cup and with this smart and original protest is what really motivated us. The Hidden Flag gives visibility to all of the brave people who face discrimination, silencing and fear on a daily basis in Russia and other parts of the world were LBGTI people are persecuted, humiliated or marginalized.”
Both the FELGTB and FARE (Fifa’s anti-discrimination network) warned visiting LGBTQ fans not to participate in any political protests and to avoid public displays of affection, something this group of activists took into account before landing in Russia.
“On the eve of the World Cup inauguration and Pride month in Spain, the FELGTB and ElDiario.com asked us to come up with an idea to draw awareness to the discriminatory laws in Russia and put pressure on them to change,” said Pancho Cassis, executive creative director at LOLA MullenLowe, the agency behind the campaign. “We needed to come up with an effective, irreverent and inspiring idea that also kept the people who are fighting safe. The Hidden Flag is a result of a research, collaboration, conversation and activism, a process that is very aligned with our own values.”