Russian libraries are removing LGBTQ+-themed books from their shelves after the country’s President Vladimir Putin signed a law yesterday expanding the prohibition on LGBTQ+ “propaganda.”
The newly signed law effectively outlaws any public expression of LGBTQ+ life in Russia by banning “any action or the spreading of any information that is considered an attempt to promote homosexuality in public, online, or in films, books or advertising,” Reuters reported.
Four Moscow libraries have already taken action in the wake of the new law, according to Russian media. The libraries reportedly received a list of authors whose books they needed to make completely unavailable on shelves and online. The books include any with LGBTQ+ content, and based on another new law, any authors considered “foreign agents” or who criticize the war in Ukraine.
Putin first signed a law banning so-called “gay propaganda” in Russia in June 2013. The law ostensibly sought to “protect children” from any “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships,” as stated in the law’s text. The new law extends the restrictions to not just children but Russians of all ages.
Putin signed the law as part of a broader push for Russians to embrace the nation’s “traditional values.” The push has been used as a justification for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s stance against the western multinational defense coalition NATO which seeks to limit Russia’s military expansion in Europe.
The law has mostly been used to silence LGBTQ+ activist organizations, events, websites, and media, as well as to break up families and harass teachers. It has also been roundly condemned by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as civil rights activists around the world.
These critics say the updated law will further endanger the lives of Russia’s LGBTQ+ population, which has already suffered increased harassment, violence, and hostility in recent years.
The new law comes as conservatives in the United States are advancing a similar push for schools to remove LGBTQ+ content from their libraries.
Across the country, parents and politicians are petitioning school boards and proposing laws to severely limit the type of content kids can access at school. In some states, laws have been proposed that would criminalize librarians and other school staff if they don’t remove certain books from the shelves.
Conservatives have claimed these books are inappropriate or even pornographic and that parents deserve more control over what their children can access, even though many people in these towns have argued that books with similar heterosexual scenes don’t face the same scrutiny. In many cases, their fights have been successful.