Russia’s lower house on Tuesday passed a bill to forbid people from “spreading propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, in a move that has been decried by rights groups as an attack on the country’s LGBT population.
Russia’s lower house overwhelmingly approved a law on Tuesday banning gay “propaganda”, a measure rights groups say has already fuelled attacks on gay citizens as President Vladimir Putin pursues an increasingly conservative social agenda.
The law would forbid providing information on “non-traditional sexual relations” to minors and establish steep fines for violations (roughly $156 for an individual and $31,000 for a company).
The bill passed with 436 votes in the 450-seat Duma. One deputy abstained and no one voted against.
The bill still needs to be approved by the upper house and signed into law by Putin, but neither step is in doubt.
The new measure is the latest effort to protect traditional Russian values against Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church see as corrupting Russian youth and inciting protests against Putin’s rule.
“Traditional sexual relations are relations between a man and a woman, which ... are a condition for the preservation and development of the multi-ethnic Russian people,” lawmaker Yelena Mizulina told the chamber. “It is precisely these relations that need special protection by the state,” she said.
Critics of the bill, which amounts to a nation-wide version of laws that already exist in several cities, like St Petersburg, say it would in effect ban gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for LGBT citizens.
LGBT activists attacked
As the lawmakers voted on Tuesday, hundreds of anti-gay demonstrators gathered outside the parliament building, chanting “Russia is not Sodom”, singing Orthodox Christian prayers, and hurling eggs at LGBT activists participating in a “kiss-in” nearby.
When one of the LGBT activists was thrown to the ground and kicked by a group of anti-gay demonstrators, police began arresting more than two dozen protesters (most of them gay).
There are no official statistics on homophobic acts in Russia, but in an online poll last year, 15 percent of roughly 900 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender respondents said they had been physically attacked at least once in the last 10 months.
Investigators have also said that homophobia was the motive behind the murders of two men in the past month, one in eastern Russia and one in the southern city of Volgograd.
Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, and while Putin denies that there is discrimination against gays in Russia, he has also openly criticised them for failing to increase Russia’s dramatically declining population.
Other lawmakers have said Russian gays and lesbians should be barred from government jobs, forced to undergo psychiatric treatment, or exiled.
Activists in Russia and abroad have denounced the bill in strong terms. “Russia is trying very hard to make discrimination look respectable by calling it ‘tradition,’ but whatever term is used in the bill, it remains discrimination and a violation of the basic human rights of LGBT people,” read a statement released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, one of Russia’s most prominent rights activists, told the Interfax news agency (a non-governmental Russian news oulet): “In normal countries, no one persecutes representatives of sexual minorities…. A modern person knows that these people are different from the rest just like a brunette is different from a blonde. They are not guilty of anything.”
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-06-12