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Fri Aug 28 09:28:43 SAST 2015

Madonna courts gay controversy in Russia

Sapa-AFP | 09 August, 2012 10:39
U.S. singer Madonna performs on stage during her MDNA tour at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow August 7, 2012.
Image by: MAXIM SHEMETOV / REUTERS

Pop legend Madonna is expected Thursday to come out in support of gays and lesbians at her concert in Saint Petersburg where authorities passed a controversial law banning "homosexual propaganda."

But gay activists said they would picket Madonna ahead of her concert in Russia's former imperial capital, accusing her of not doing enough to support the embattled Russian gay community.

"In our opinion, it is not enough to say a few words in support of homosexuals between two songs during a concert," local activist Yury Gavrikov told AFP in Saint Petersburg.

Activists had earlier called on Madonna to cancel her concerts in Russia as a gesture of support for the gay community.

"If you position yourself as a defender of human rights then you need to do something more substantial," said Gavrikov, accusing Madonna of hypocrisy.

At her Moscow concert on Tuesday, Madonna spoke out in favour of freedom of speech as she urged the Russian authorities to release three members of all-girl punk band Pussy Riot who are standing trial for performing a song against President Vladimir Putin at a landmark Moscow church.

At the packed concert she said she prayed for the women's freedom and later stripped to a bra to reveal the words "Pussy Riot" written on her back.

Madonna's official page on Facebook said that a pink wristband would be available at the concert in Saint Petersburg to those who want to support the gay community in the city.

"The wristband will be part of the show - be prepared to raise your arm in support!" it said.

Saint Petersburg earlier this year passed a citywide law that fines those "promoting homosexuality" to minors and apparently equates it with paedophilia, even though homosexuality is not a crime in Russia.

Russia legalised homosexuality in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union but only ceased to class it as a mental disorder in 1999, and homophobic attitudes still run high in the country.

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