Russian State Duma passes 'gay propaganda' bill

The Russian parliament bans the propaganda of homosexuality in second and third reading.
Anti-gay rights activists stand on a rainbow flag during a protest by gay rights activists demonstrating against a proposed new law termed by the State Duma. Source: Reuters / Maxim Shemetov
Anti-gay rights activists stand on a rainbow flag during a protest by gay rights activists demonstrating against a proposed new law termed by the State Duma. Source: Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

As the Russian parliament backs the ban on the propaganda of homosexuality in second and third reading, Russian and foreign human rights activists express their concerns.

Russia's State Duma has nearly unanimously passed a draft law on fines for the propaganda of homosexuality among minors.

The bill, which needs presidential endorsement to become law, makes changes to the law "On the Protection of Children from Information Potentially Damaging to Their Health and Development" and to other legislation, was supported by 436 members of the 450-seat lower house.

The planned law, simultaneously passed at the second and third reading on Tuesday, says its purpose is to combat "the dissemination of information that aims to induce minors to develop non-traditional sexual attitudes, to see non-traditional sexual relationships as attractive, to develop the distorted notion that traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships possess the same value, or the dissemination of information on non-traditional sexual relationships that arouses interest in such relationships," the bill says.

Such an act would entail a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles ($124 to $155) for ordinary individuals, of 40,000 to 50,000 rubles (about $1,240 to $1,500) for officials, and of 800,000 to 1 million rubles (around $24 000 to $31,000) or suspension for a maximum of 90 days for entities.

If media or telecommunications including the Internet were used for any such act, there would be fines of between 50,000 and 100,000 rubles for ordinary individuals, between 100,000 and 200,000 rubles for officials and 1 million or suspension for up to 90 days for entities.

If any such act were committed by a foreign national or stateless person, there would be a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles with expulsion from Russia or arrest for a maximum of 15 days with subsequent expulsion from the country.

If a foreign national uses the media or the Internet for any such act, they would face a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 rubles or arrest for up to days, with expulsion from Russia in either case.

The planned law is expected to come into force on the day of its official publication.

In response to the bill, some Russians took to the streets to express their indignation. As a result, about 20 people were detained by police near the State Duma building on Tuesday over an attempt to hold a rally without permission from the authorities, a city police spokesman told Interfax. All those detained were taken to police stations.

The Ekho Moskvy radio station has reported earlier  that a rally in support of a ban on homosexual propaganda among children and another one protesting against a bill to protect the religious feelings of Russian citizens were taking place outside the State Duma headquarters on Tuesday. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community) activists also gathered near the State Duma and tried to stage an anti-homophobia action.

Meanwhile, Russian human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin warns against "unwise" application of the bill.

"The main issue will be the administration of the law. Cruel and unwise administration could lead to human casualties and human tragedies," Lukin told Interfax. "People, who draft and try to promote such bills, probably guess but ignore the fact that creating a halo of victimhood is one of the most efficient forms of advertisement."

"The term homosexuality [used in the first reading of the relevant bill] will not be used, we will use the term non-traditional sexual relations," head of the State Duma's committee on family, women's and children's affairs, Yelena Mizulina, told reporters.

Likewise, the Human Rights Watch international organization (HRW) expresses fears about the ban.

"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 [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual] people," Graeme Reid, LGBT rights program director at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying.

"To try to exclude LGBT people as 'non-traditional' is to try and make them less than human. It is cynical, and it is dangerous," Reid said.

The article is based on materials from Interfax.

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