Scrolling through the BBC website, I came across a news story labelled “why being gay in Russia is about “passion and love”: the secret moment between two gay Russian lovers that defied haters.”
The topic of the clip was LGBT human rights in Russia and probably came in response to Putin’s comments at a state commission to discuss changes to Russia’s constitution a few days ago. He stated “as long as I’m president this [gay marriage] will not happen. There will be dad and mum.” But what struck me about the story was how irrelevant it seemed on the BBC website. It wasn’t a part of the news of the day, and it served to capture very little attention. This is typically how Western News outlets report on complicated issues when they occur in Europe: by ignoring them or reporting them as a small and insignificant. By contrast, if this was a news story about an African, Muslim, or Asian political leader, there would be public outrage, criticism of their religion, of their communities and of their ways of life.
This same pattern is seen very often when news outlets discuss things like child marriage, poverty, religious radicalism and anti-feminism (to name a few). News reports are always adamant that poverty and child marriage only happen on the African continent; that the violation of women rights only takes place in Saudi, and that homophobia or religious extremism is solely a product of Islam.
And while these atrocities absolutely do occur in these communities, the media in the West and the UK gives a disproportionately biased view of them only occurring in these countries. But we know from statistics that between the years of 2000 and 2015 more than 200,000 ‘children’ were married in America and, in some states, it is still legal for a 13 yo girl to marry a much older man. We also know that women’s rights are being violated all over the world. Still, outrage only arises when British media report on Asian/ Arab countries, with all eyes on Saudi because their women are now allowed to drive. And there are people and countries all over the world who still struggle with the acceptance of gender fluidity and different sexualities, but its only Muslim/ African countries, or the lack of recognition of it in these countries, that makes the front page.
The saviour complex that the Western societies have means that countries like Russia that are, generally, homophobic, do not get the attention or outcry that they might deserve because the West is too busy poking their noses into the affairs of countries that they deem lesser than their own.
You can’t rave about how important it is for the LGBT community to have equal rights if you only care about the violation of those right in countries you can manipulate. You can’t call for global action against anti-feminism, lack of adequate healthcare, thousands of people living beneath the poverty line and equality for all if you don’t care enough to provoke those the same reactions about those same issues in your own country.
Maybe it’s because the Eastern Orthodox church is older than the Anglican; maybe it’s because Russia is far away; maybe its because the British and the Americans are still a tiny bit afraid of Russia and know they won’t be dictated to – but whatever the reasons behind it, Western media needs to keep that same energy when reporting on the issues of white societies and governments. Because if those same issues came up in any other country- BBC and all of the other major media news outlets would be baying for blood.