- Photo via The Gaily Grind
After weeks of brewing awareness and outrage over the truly horrific position in which Russia has happily left any and all of its LGBT citizens, Gothamist reported earlier this week that several New York bars are joining the Dan Savage-led boycott of Stolichnaya and other Russian brands of vodka. Responses have been decidedly mixed, ranging from enthusiastic support to accusations of oddly nationalist "slacktivism," and even on-the-ground Russian activists are divided on the issue. Some have publicly said there's "no point" to such a boycott, and some think it should be expanded to other Russian brands.
At the very least, the boycott has been raising much-needed international awareness of a staggering human rights issue, but whether you're edgy about the ethics of this whole thing, don't really ever drink vodka by choice to begin with (that'd be me), or just want to find as many options as possible, there are other ways you can help out.
Boycott The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi
A concept similar to the divestment-based idea behind the Stoli boycott, but on a much, much larger scale. And besides financial pressure as a means to an end—which would be staggering if this petition demanding Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, and Visa pull their sponsorship from the games
holds sway—the 2014 Olympics themselves have become a significant safety issue. In spite of limp assurances from Olympics officials that LGBT athletes, their friends, and families would be safe during the games, just this morning a high-level Russian politician announced
that gay Olympic athletes will, in fact, be subject to arrest. Not long after, protestors headed uptown to the Russian Consulate
, dumping vodka in front of the building and demanding a repeal of the nation's new anti-gay laws prior to the games.
Yes, another petition. But it's a good one. As experts and activists have both pointed out, one of the most effective ways to get the attention of the Russian government may be to specifically target its politicians, and Nikolai Alekseev told Gay Star News
, "Just three or four persons on the visa ban list of the EU, USA, UK and several other countries will dissuade other Russian politicians to follow this path [...] Pressure your governments to put the authors of those laws on the black lists for the entrance visas."
Turns out, there's a specific government framework for doing just that, in the form of the Magnitsky Act, which imposes visa bans and frozen assets for Russian officials known to have committed human rights violations. Currently, Spectrum Human Rights is circulating a petition to add to prominent anti-gay officials to the list, and William Browder, one of the law's primary supporters, told Business Insider, "I can't think of a more appropriate use of this legislation than to sanction Russian officials who are actively going after LGBT rights."
Think of it as a way to use all your money not
spent on vodka. Instead of a ban, one New York bar has taken to donating $1 for every Stoli drink sold
to Amnesty International, which is always a safe bet (and can be done here
), and donations can also be made to the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance
, the Eastern European organization responsible for the Magnitsky Act petition, among a whole host of other good things. It may not be the massive cultural, educational, and political overhaul that's so clearly needed here, but it's not a bad place to start.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.