Gay rights in Russia
A gay rights activist marches with a placard during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg on May 1, 2014. Reuters/Alexander Demianchuk

Clashes between gay-rights activists and opposing protesters in Russia led to at least 15 people being detained by police. The confrontation took place in Moscow after a small group of activists staged an unplanned demonstration on Saturday.

According to a report by the Associated Press, the small group of gay rights activists tried to hold an unauthorized protest outside the mayor’s office but were met with opposition and the protest soon became physical. Police reportedly detained people from both sides. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that it was unclear whether or not the individuals that were detained would be charged. According to the report, authorities frequently bar gay rights advocates from holding demonstrations due to fears of disrupting public order and violence.

Anti-gay hostility is an ongoing issue in Russia. Officially, Russian authorities condemn same-sex relationships and in 2013 passed a law that prohibits “the promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships.” The language of the “gay propaganda law” is aimed at “protecting children from information advocating for a denial of traditional family values."

“They can do whatever they want in their homes, in the special garbage places called ‘gay night clubs,’” politician Vitaly Milonov, one of the authors of the gay propaganda law told the BBC last year. “They can kill themselves with their viruses as fast as possible, but they’re not going to do it on the streets because it’s not polite and it’s uncomfortable for the people.”

Human Rights Watch says that acts of homophobic violence are being largely ignored by authorities in the country. “Russian law enforcement agencies have the tools to prosecute homophobic violence, but they lack the will to do so,” Tanya Cooper, a researcher for the group said.

According to a poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, anti-gay views are on the rise in the country. The survey found that 51 percent of those asked in 2014 did not want a gay neighbor, up from 38 percent in 2012. Additionally, 63 percent said gay people should not be accepted into society, with only 20 percent saying they should.