Russian judge Oleg Nefedov announces the decision to declare the international LGBT movement as extremist in Russia. Photo: EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV
Private camps offering so-called conversion therapy to “cure” homosexuality are operating in Russia, according to an investigation published by The Washington Post on Friday.
Parents are reportedly paying to have their own children abducted, after which they are forcibly taken to secure private facilities. The abductees, who reported being beaten and humiliated by staff, described the centres as being surrounded by high concrete walls and functioning as small unregulated prisons.
Speaking to The Washington Post, 23-year-old Ada Blakewell, who is transgender and identifies as non-binary, recounted how in August last year, her parents tricked her into a year-long course of conversion therapy at the Freedom Rehabilitation Centre in Siberia’s Altai region. “I still feel really bitter towards my family,” she said.
Blakewell recounted being made to castrate a pig “to see what transgender surgery was like”. “I was given a surgical knife and given instructions how to do it. But I couldn’t finish it. I had a severe panic attack and from then on, I was getting more and more suicidal,” she said.
Blakewell also said she was given antipsychotic medication and told it was time to atone for being queer. She managed to escape the camp nine months later, with some of her teeth broken.
Alexandra, 28, spent 20 months at a similar centre outside Moscow alongside another 60 people, most of whom were drug addicts and alcoholics. Alexandra said she was so heavily sedated she felt “like a zombie” and recounted receiving death threats from other residents.
“I felt alone because people around me were from another world. People were very distant. I was feeling like I’m cancelled. I felt invalid,” Alexandra said. She also said she had been tricked into going to the centre by her parents.
According to legal advocacy group DELO LGBT+, which has now shut down, 7% of the people who turned to them for help said their families had threatened to put them in similar facilities or had already done so.