The bill, which St. Petersburg’s city assembly passed nearly unanimously on the first of three readings on Wednesday, effectively bans public events by LGBTI people and organizations under the pretext of protecting minors.The Washington Post reports:
If enacted, the law would allow authorities to impose fines of up to the equivalent of US$1,600 for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.”
“This bill is a thinly veiled attempt to legalize discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Russia’s second-biggest city,” said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.
“The notion that LGBTI rights activists are somehow converting Russia’s youth through ‘propaganda’ would be laughable, if the potential effects of this new law weren’t so dangerous and wide-reaching.”
Local LGBTI rights activists have blasted the law, saying it will provide legal cover for banning any of their actions, including the distribution of information leaflets or even actions against homophobia.
Under the measure, freedom of assembly and expression for LGBTI groups would be prohibited anywhere children might be present. This would rule out nearly all public events carried out by or on behalf of LGBTI people and organizations.
The publication of anything relating to LGBTI rights or providing assistance or advice – including informative leaflets as well as publications in the media and on the internet – would also be severely curtailed.
Other Russian cities like Moscow have planned legislation to ban “propaganda for homosexuality”, while Arkhangelsk and the region of Riazan have already introduced such legislation.
Although consensual same-sex activity was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, LGBTI people still face widespread discrimination and violence.
LGBTI activists’ attempts to organize Pride marches, cultural festivals and other events in major cities, including St. Petersburg, have frequently been met with official red tape and violence from anti-gay groups, among them people associating themselves with the Orthodox Church. Violent attacks against LGBTI activists often go unpunished.
Russia’s top gay rights activist on Thursday condemned a bill passed in the country’s second largest city that prohibits “propaganda of homosexuality” to minors, warning it could be used to ban gay protest rallies.This is yet more evidence that Russia is sliding further into totalitarianism. If you would like to add your name to a petition of support for Russian activists fighting this bill, go here.
Nikolai Alexeyev of the GayRussia.ru group described the legislation tentatively approved by lawmakers in St. Petersburg as a “disgrace.”
The bill was proposed by the dominant United Russia party and passed Wednesday by a 27 to 1 vote, with one abstention, in the first of three required readings. It calls for a fine of up to $1,600 for “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.”
Alexeyev said the bill could become “the main legal reason to deny any public actions by the LGBT community.”
“It theoretically allows the ban of anything anywhere where kids could be present,” he told The Associated Press.