St. PETERSBURG, Russia — Two regions of Russia – Arkhangelsk and Ryazan – have passed laws banning what they call gay “propoganda.” The laws 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.
Now the St. Petersburg region wants to introduce a similar law.
The proposed law, introduced 11 November in the legal committee of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly prohibits so-called propaganda of ‘sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism, and pedophilia to minors’. The bill was introduced by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.
Says Polina Savchenko, General manager of LGBT organization Coming Out, Russia:
“By combining homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality into one law with sexual crimes against minors (pedophilia), members of the Legislative Assembly indulge in gross manipulations of public opinion. Their goal – to pass an anti-democratic law, directed at severely limiting human rights in St. Petersburg.”
“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.”
“It is also obvious that adoption of this law violates interests and rights of minors. Russia leads the world in the number of teenage suicides, and ignoring the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity can lead to tragic consequences.”
“This bill is absurd, both in terms of legal logic, and in terms of plain common sense. So what is the real goal? 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.”
St. Petersburg is home to numerous groups: The only interregional LGBT organization “Russian LGBT Network“; the largest grassroots LGBT organization Coming Out; the LGBT festival Side by Side; and other LGBT groups.
Savchenko believes that the LGBT movement in Russia has become now become so noticeable that “the homophobic government can no longer ignore its existence. The state attempts to destroy LGBT organizations using legal framework and to discredit them in the minds of the people.”
She suggests that there is a real possibility that such a law will follow on the Federal level.
Lithuania in 2009 pass a law to ‘protect minors’ banning “propaganda of homosexual, bisexual or polygamous relations”. After an outcry from its fellow European Union members this was amended to a “ban to spread information that would promote sexual relations or other conceptions of concluding a marriage or creating a family other than established in the Constitution or the Civil Code” and a ban on information that “profanes family values”. The Lithuanian government claimed it wasn’t discriminatory but since coming into effect the law has only been used once and that is to try to ban the Vilnius Gay Pride in 2010.
The Ukrainian Parliament is proposing establishing a criminal liability for “propaganda of homosexualism”.
Meanwhile, the website GayRussia is polling readers on whether on not to ‘out’ closeted but anti-gay Russian public figures.
The former mayor of Arkhangelsk recently alleged that politicians in the region use transgender prostitutes and that some members of the regional assembly, which has banned ‘gay propoganda’, are gay.