Move over Facebook, Russia’s People’s Council has a new enemy in its war against supposed homosexual threats: a milk carton it says promotes the “vice” of being gay.
“A rainbow appeared on the cartons, a world-renowned symbol of the gay movement”, [Anatoly Artyukh of the People's Council] says. “That immediately put me on alert.”
State prosecutors are now investigating what Mr Artukh says is a deliberate attempt to promote homosexuality to children orchestrated by the multinational dairy’s owner, Pepsi Co.
“I have no doubts about Pepsi Cola”, he says. “This is a company renowned for actively and aggressively financing and promoting homosexuality.”
Wimm-Bill-Dann, the company producing the offending milk carton, is Russia’s largest food and beverage company and was purchased by PepsiCo in 2010 for $3.8 million.
The People’s Council is claiming that the milk carton violates St. Petersburg’s anti-homosexuality “propaganda” ban that has been used to bring suits against a number of people, including popstar Madonna who it was claimed may have “turned” children gay by advocating for LGBT rights during her August 9 concert.
The St. Petersburg law is designed to prevent the “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism” under the guise of protecting children. St. Petersburg Governor Gregory Poltavchenko signed the bill into law in March this year.
The law, facing legal challenge, was recently upheld by Russia’s Supreme Court, but with limits.
The court found that it was lawful for the state to enact a law banning the promotion of homosexuality to children. Significantly, however, the court ruled the once overreaching law should be confined to cases specifically dealing with instances where a minor may be affected. This would mean that gay pride parades may no longer be automatically banned by the law.
The court did not overturn the 100-year ban on pride parades that is currently in place, however.
The hysteria over the rainbow branded carton seems in part to do with how PepsiCo as a company has taken steps to promote gay equality, but it is also symptomatic of a greater, and relatively swift, shift toward religious zealotry that has infested Russian politics.
As noted above, because the Supreme Court has now put limits on how the propaganda ban can be applied, it remains unclear whether the St. Petersburg law can be invoked in this instance.
This doesn’t seem to have deterred Anatoly Artyukh, however, who is quoted by Reuters as saying, “In the near future we are planning to picket the shops and hand out leaflets informing people that the money they spent on this milk will be used to finance gay propaganda.”
While the People’s Council’s rally for the milk carton to be banned is ludicrous and could also be viewed as being humorous even, for Russia’s LGBT community it is anything but, especially since Russia’s Duma is now considering a nationwide anti-gay propaganda ban.
Russia officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, though it seems Russia’s religious orthodoxy, with its vines snaking through much of Russia’s political landscape, would like to criminalize LGBT identity once again so that even the slightest inference of gay life becomes reason for protest and court action.
Image credit: ThinkStock.