Russia’s lawmakers say gay people are such a threat to children that there is a need to ban transmitting knowledge of homosexuality in the public sphere, and the Duma has now passed a bill to that effect.
The law received a 436-0 on Tuesday, July 11, with just one deputy abstaining from voting on the bill.
With approval by the upper chamber and President Putin appearing to be just a formality, activists warn that this effectively is a return to Russia criminalizing gay identity. The legislation bans the promotion of ”propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors.
The law introduces fines for individuals (100,000 roubles/$3,143) and groups (1m roubles/$31,401) who break the law. The law also reserves special penalties for non-Russians.
Those who are foreign-born and infringe on the law can expect to be detained for up to 15 days as well as receive a 100,000 roubles/$3,143 fine. This serves to continue Russia’s attack on foreign influence that started in earnest last year with its systematic raids on foreign NGOs.
The vast scope of the law would obviously appear to ban all public advocacy of gay rights, including the pride parades of which Russian authorities have never been fond, but it could be applied further to restrict LGBT-sexual health advocacy and any and all public statements that gay relationships are just as healthy as straight relationships. The implications for public health, both and physical and mental, become obvious.
The national gay gag rule is the culmination of similar concerted efforts at a regional level, including the most infamous US-born St Petersburg law of 2012 that was designed to prevent the ”propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism.”
A court later ruled the St Petersburg law could not be used to ban Pride parades and an attempt to use the law to prosecute the popstar Madonna for a concert in August of 2012 in which she publicly advocated for gay rights was unsuccessful.
However, with the adoption of a national gay “propaganda” ban, the legislative field may have changed and could give new vigor to these regional prosecutions.
One of Russia’s most prominent LGBT activists, Nikolai Alekseev, is in the process of filing human rights charges with the Prosecutor General against Yelena Mizulina, one of the key sponsors of the bill.
Alekseev contends that Mizulina’s support for the bill, representative of the whole legislative chamber, marks a targeting of the LGBT community that causes harm and may even risk lives. The gay propaganda law will also see a clash with the footballing world, as Russia is set to host the 2018 World Cup.
As ThinkProgress points out, football governing body FIFA has continually ignored the issue and refused to address the subject of host countries being antagonistic to LGBT people. This is further emphasized by the fact that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup, a country which actively and openly criminalizes homosexuality.
While the gay gag rule is itself odious enough, when seen through the broader spectrum and alongside other laws making their way through Russia’s legislative chambers, a truly shocking picture starts to emerge.
Care2 has previously covered Russia’s attempts to ban foreign adoptions by married gay couples. This act also looks certain to be signed into law.
Another law advanced by the Duma alongside the gay gag rule this month would mandate up to three years in prison for, according to the BBC, “offending religious feelings of the faithful.”
Like the gay gag rule, the law appears to be so poorly defined that any act or opinion, should it displease the religious, could be subject to legal action. Needless to say, this would be fertile ground for science-denial on topics such as evolution and the origins of life.
The law appears to be a direct answer to the 2012 jailing of Pussy Riot, the punk band that dared to perform an anti-Putin protest in an Orthodox cathedral.
Given the Orthodox church’s heavy support for adherence to religious conservative values and its aligning itself with the Putin administration to further such aims, there could have been no more a perfect venue for this public protest.
The reaction to that protest exemplified every bit of the repression the band protested against when the three members were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after being detained for a protracted period of time and enduring a heavily biased court hearing.
Rights groups warn that only immediate and united action from European powers and world leaders might now slow Russia’s slide toward becoming a human rights-free state.
Image credit: Thinkstock.
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