YouTube has removed a Russian advert from its platform because of its homophobic content.
The advert was created to encourage Russians to vote for measures President Vladimir Putin wants to introduce via an upcoming referendum.
To drive home its point, the advert shows a young boy in an orphanage. The advert is shown through the eyes of an orphanage worker who is capturing the moment on her cellphone when the child is to be introduced to his new parents.
“Are you excited to meet your new mum and dad?” she asks the boy. He says that he is.
His happiness turns to dismay when he realizes his parents are a gay couple.
The person he thought would be his “mum” is depicted as a limp-wristed man wearing nail polish. The older man surprises the child with a gift: It’s a child’s size dress for him to wear.
This video is going viral in Russia today.
The clip warns Russians that if they don’t vote to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, gay couples will start adopting children in Russia. pic.twitter.com/TDuZkq16ue
— Coda Story (@CodaStory) June 2, 2020
Seeing the man give the child a dress, one of the orphanage workers spits on the ground in disgust, as they watch the boy being led away.
“Will you choose such a Russia? Decide the future of the country – vote for amendments to the constitution,” says a voiceover toward the end of the advert.
The message is clear: if you don’t vote for Putin’s proposals in the July referendum, Russia will become more liberal and pro-LGBTQ rights, with gay people eventually being allowed to adopt. Currently, only married, opposite-sex couples can adopt.
The upcoming referendum does not cover adoption rights. However, it does include a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman only. This would effectively prevent same-sex marriage legislation from being passed.
Although same-sex sexual activity is legal in Russia, LGBTQ people lack many other rights. In 2013, the country also introduced a notorious anti-gay propaganda law that bars the promotion of anything besides “traditional values” to minors. The legislation has been used to outlaw anything gay-related in the media and to ban Pride marches.
Putin’s use of a referendum is thought to go beyond a simple act of homophobia. The proposed legislation also includes a range of measures that political observers believe would greatly extend Putin’s powers and ability to rule Russia well beyond the terms of his Presidency (due to end in 2024).
Because such measures are unlikely to drag voters to the ballot box, adding populist legislation such as the ban on same-sex marriage may have been included for no other reason than to get people out to vote in favor of the amendments.
YouTube acted to remove the clip after complaints from LGBTQ groups that it incited hatred, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation. However, the advert remains online on the widely-used Russian social media platform, VKontakte, where it has more than a million views.