Escaping Discrimination: LGBTQ+ Russians Seek Sanctuary in Argentina
Anastasia Domini and wife Anna Domini walked hand in hand on a recent sunny day in Argentina’s capital while their four restless children played nearby. It’s a common sight in a country where same-sex marriage has been legal for more than a decade. But the couple, who got married shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires early last year, still remember the fear they felt when they first decided to hold hands in public after leaving Russia, which explicitly outlawed same-sex marriages in 2020.
“It was really scary,” Anastasia Domini said, but “we were looking around and really, really nobody was looking.”
For the Dominis, who changed their last names so they could more convincingly pretend to be sisters in Russia, the stroll exemplified how much their lives had changed since they moved, joining an increasing number of LGBTQ+ Russians who decided to leave their homeland and settle in Argentina to escape discrimination and the war with Ukraine.
A Struggle for LGBTQ+ Rights in Russia
Over the past decade, living openly as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Russia has grown increasingly difficult. In December 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that significantly expanded restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ+ rights in the country, building on a law that had been in place since 2013 and that independent researchers say led to a surge in violence against sexual minorities. More recently, the Kremlin has even framed the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine partly as a way to defend conservative values against Western promotion of gay and transgender rights.
The Argentine LGBT Federation has received about 130 inquiries in the past year and a half from Russians interested in seeking refuge in Argentina, more than any other nationality. “The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has accelerated the decision of many people who were already in a vulnerable situation,” said Maribe Sgariglia, who heads the organization’s international relations department.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community aren’t the only Russians coming to Argentina. In January, 4,523 Russians entered Argentina, more than four times the 1,037 that arrived in the same month last year, according to government figures. In 2022, some 22,200 Russians entered Argentina, including a large number of pregnant women who have flown into the country to give birth, partly in a bid to obtain a passport that opens more doors.