Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he would like to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin on his anti-LGBT policies.
Varadkar, one of the few openly gay world leaders, has used his platform several times to further awareness of LGBT+ issues, even raising the subject with Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland in August 2018.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Leo Varadkar said he would love to discuss equal rights with Vladimir Putin, who introduced a strict gay ‘propaganda’ law in 2013 that has been used to clamp down on LGBT+ people across Russia.
Varadkar said of Putin: “I have met him. I met him very briefly. I met him at the Armistice Day Events in Paris on November 11 but obviously he was speaking Russian and I was speaking English. So I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to him about [LGBT rights].
“I would like to talk to him about it.”
“I would be curious to explore with him why he thinks that discrimination against gay people is the way to make Russia wealthier or more successful.”
— Leo Varadkar
He added: “I have spoken to the Russian Ambassador about it, who takes the view that what we are hearing in the West is exaggerated. I don’t believe that.
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“So I would like to challenge [Putin] about it, and really ask him why he thinks these policies make Russia stronger, make Russia greater.”
Varadkar continued: “He is clearly someone who is the strongman, who wants to make his country powerful in the world again. I obviously don’t agree with how he is going about that.
“But I would be curious to explore with him why he thinks that discrimination against gay people is the way to make Russia wealthier or more successful or more prestigious in the world because that is definitely his world.”
Russia’s anti-LGBT laws breach European human rights standards
The European Court of Human Rights has previously ruled that the country’s gay ‘propaganda’ law breaches European treaty rules on freedom of expression.
In June 2017, the court ruled that the law “reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia.”
A further court ruling in November 2018 found that Russia has violated LGBT+ people’s human rights by systemically banning Pride events.
Ruling against Russia, the court found that “the ban on holding LGBT public assemblies… did not correspond to a pressing social need and was thus not necessary in a democratic society.”
The November 27 ruling found that “the applicants suffered unjustified discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, that that discrimination was incompatible with the standards of the Convention, and that they were denied an effective domestic remedy in respect of their complaints concerning a breach of their freedom of assembly.”
Although Russia is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, the international court has little power to enforce the rulings in Russia.