A calendar featuring naked athletes that benefits an LGBT sports charity has been banned in Russia for "gay propaganda," claimed its makers.
Angus Malcolm, photographer and producer of the annual Warwick Rowers calendar, told The Independent, a British newspaper, that so far, six of 23 calendars shipped to the Eastern Eurpean nation have been rejected and returned without explanation.
Malcolm believes the country's anti-LGBT laws are to blame. In 2013, Russia passed legislation that bans "promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors." In other words, it bars positive mention of LGBT issues in materials and venues accessible to young people, and has been used against Pride parades and even Facebook posts.
"My heart goes out to the rowers’ Russian fans, who are increasingly subjected to acts of hatred and discrimination that shouldn’t be tolerated in any society anywhere across the globe," Malcolm told The Independent.
"The fact Russian customs rejected our calendar is nothing compared to the suffering some LGBT+ people face every day, but it acts as a signifier of the wider problem."
In addition to the returned mail, which can cost up to 25 pounds per rejected item, WarwickRowers.org was also recently targeted by a denial-of-service attack, which temporarily disabled the website with a flood of traffic. The I.P. address was reportedly traced to Russia.
"If they can’t cope with a few naked bums, then frankly that’s quite sad," Malcolm added.
The calendar in question features naked portraits of rowers from the University of Warwick, and it supports a good cause. A portion of sales benefits Sport Allies, which fights homophobia in sports.
Malcolm said that this spirit of acceptance was "heretical" in Russia. He said its president, Vladimir Putin, fueled "precisely the kind of toxic masculinity that Sport Allies and the Warwick Rowers want to challenge."
Indeed, since the adoption of its "gay propaganda" laws, hate crimes against LGBT people have doubled in Russia.