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Russia passes strict ‘gay propaganda’ law

Associated Press reports:

LGBT rights marchers in St. Petersburg, Russia, on May 1, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Coming Out)
LGBT rights marchers in St. Petersburg, Russia, on May 1, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Coming Out)

The lower house of Russia’s parliament has overwhelmingly passed a bill that stigmatizes the gay community and bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to children.

The State Duma voted 434-0 with one abstention on Tuesday to approve the Kremlin-backed legislation, which imposes hefty fines for holding gay pride rallies or providing information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors.

The bill still needs to be approved by the appointed upper house and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, but neither step is in doubt.

The European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association responded quickly and strongly:

ILGA-Europe appeals to international and European institutions not only to condemn this law, but to consider meaningful actions again Russia demanding to repeal this law and to stop state-sponsored homophobia in the country.

Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:  “This is a very sad day for the Russian LGBTI community and for Russian democracy. Today the Russian Parliament cemented its homophobic law at the federal level. Despite strong condemnation by virtually all international and European institutions and human rights organisations, Russian law makers have chosen to disregard their international human rights commitments and to ignore their own Constitution. Today the Russian Duma demonstrated that homophobia is an official state policy.”

Gabi Calleja, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, continued:  “We are deeply concerned by the negative impact of this law. Homophobic rhetoric which accompanied the adoption of this law at the regional and federal level for the last few years already significantly contributed toward a climate of hatred and physical violence against LGBTI people which recently resulted in a number of murders.”

Adopted regional and federal laws banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ are part of a wider systematic crack down on Russian LGBTI and civil society movements in general. Recently adopted laws on foreign agents constitute a very serious and a real threat to the mere existence of civil society organisations: currently a St Petersburg LGBT film festival Bok-o-Bok is on trial in court and potentially faces high financial penalties for not registering foreign support.

The Russian LGBT Network stated about the bill:

  • Instead of ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ the term ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’ is used.
  • Also this bill included such legally ambiguous terms as ‘non-traditional sexual attitudes’, ‘distorted image of equality of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships’.
  • Adoption of this law means that any mentioning of sexual relationships considered ‘non-traditional’ by the law enforcer will be fined as the law talks about banning the spreading information and expressing one’s opinion about ‘distorted image of equality of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships” and “appeal of non-traditional sexual relationships’.
  • The enforcement of this law will endanger the freedom of gathering as it allows suspension of any organisation’s activity and a fine up to 1 million roubles which could mean impossibility for organizations to operate.
  • Foreigners will be punished stricter than Russian citizens, up to 15 days of arrest and expulsion from the country.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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