In the first of three readings, the legislative assembly in Russia’s second city has overwhelmingly approved a law banning so-called “gay propaganda.”
The law, which has been rushed through the St. Petersburg assembly, would prohibit so-called propaganda of “sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism, and pedophilia to minors.” The bill was introduced by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.
In St. Petersburg itself there have been protests. At one on Sunday protesters held up signs saying “I am gay, a human, not propaganda. Milonov [the law’s legislative proponent], do not be afraid!” and “I am a lesbian — do not be afraid of me, Babich!”
On Saturday at the NGO Forum of the Nordic countries and Russia in St. Petersburg activists took over the rostrum – to the applause of some delegates and silence from the Russians and many others (see video).
The St. Petersburg law has been widely reported in Russian media.
Two regions of Russia — Arkhangelsk and Ryazan — have previously passed the same law, which have been deemed constitutional by Russian courts despite the chilling of free speech and the attack on LGBT organizing and ability to protest that they represent.
Polina Savchenko, General manager of LGBT organization Coming Out, Russia, described the law as “absurd, both in terms of legal logic, and in terms of plain common sense.”
“So what is the real goal?” she asked. “It is clear that adoption of this law would impose significant limitations on the activities of LGBT organizations. Organizers of public events cannot restrict access of minors to any open area; people under 18 can be there just by chance. Consequently, it makes any public campaigns aimed at reducing xenophobia and hate crime prevention impossible.”
“In the name of ‘public interest,’ members of the Legislative Assembly decided to ignore the Federal law, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention for Human Rights, Council of Europe Recommendations and other decrees by international organizations, of which Russia is a member. However, no public discussions were held.”
UK Gay News points out that on Nov. 7, the United Kingdom took over the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe for six months.
Russia is a member of the Council of Europe and both the Council and its European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly found against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Moscow’s bans on gay pride demonstrations have been before the court and the first anti ‘gay propaganda’ law in Ryazan is also due to come before it. However Russia has previously paid any fines but refused to actually make any changes.
In the Committee of Ministers during the handover from Ukraine, British Foreign Minister William Hague MP said that the UK Chairmanship will work to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity across Europe.
“Too many people still suffer outdated prejudices, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he told the Committee of Ministers. “We will work with the secretariat and our partners in the Committee of Ministers to improve all member states’ performance in this area.”
So, over to you Mr. Hague. The repressed LGBT community in Russia needs help.
According to a 2005 poll, 43.5% of Russians supported the re-criminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults.
The City of Moscow is reportedly considering a similar ‘gay propaganda’ law and there are reports of discussions about a federal Russian law.
Renowned Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev has called for Russian politicians to be blocked “from spending their holidays in Nice, Cyprus or Spain” and that Russia’s voting rights at the Council of Europe be suspended. He has also said that petitions from the West to Russian politicians are “useless”.
Allout.org has a petition, which has quickly gathered 100,000 signatures, which is directed to ‘world leaders’ and which they plan to deliver to Foreign Ministries around the world.