Russian politicians approve bill banning LGBT ‘propaganda’

Russian politicians approve bill banning LGBT ‘propaganda’

Russia’s lower house of parliament unanimously approved a bill that effectively bans any expression of LGBTQ life.

The new law expands the ban on “LGBT propaganda” and restricts the “demonstration” of LGBTQ conduct, resulting in any action or information perceived to promote homosexuality — whether in public, online, or in films, books, or advertisements — subject to harm. big. Fine.

The legislation still needs to be approved by the upper house of parliament and President Vladimir Putin, but these steps are considered a formality.

“Any publicity of unconventional relations will have consequences,” said the speaker in the lower house, or Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, on social media.

He added that the bill “will protect our children and the future of our country from the darkness spread by the United States and European countries.”

Activists say the new legislation further cracks down on “non-traditional” sexual relations in Russia, where legal experts have warned its ambiguous language leaves scope for law enforcement officers to interpret it as broadly as they like, raising risks and uncertainty for the country. LGBTQ community.

Ksenia Mikhailova of the LGBTQ community support group Vykhod (“Coming Out”) told Reuters news agency that it is likely that adult-only gay bars or clubs will still be allowed to operate, although not advertised, but that same-sex kissing in public may taken as a violation.

She said same-sex couples would start to fear that their children might be taken from them on the grounds that they were leading an alleged LGBTQ lifestyle.

The lawmakers say they are defending the traditional values ​​of the “Russian world” against a liberal West that they claim is seeking to destroy them — an argument officials are increasingly using as one of the justifications for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The authorities have already used the existing law to stop gay pride marches and detain gay rights activists. Rights groups say the new law aims to remove those who lead “non-traditional” lives, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, from public life altogether.

“LGBT people are elements of hybrid warfare and in this hybrid war we must protect our values, our society and our children,” Alexander Khinstein, one of the bill’s architects, said last month.

The legislation provides for fines of up to 400,000 rubles ($6,600) for individuals and up to 5 million rubles ($82,100) for legal entities. Foreigners may face 15 days of detention and subsequent expulsion.

Mikhailova said that the original ban nine years ago on LGBT “propaganda” against minors had led to a wave of attacks against the community, and that a “tsunami” could now be expected because the amendment in force “provides that the state is not against violence towards the community.” the meme. people”.

Political scientist Ekaterina Schulman said the law aims to ban anything that shows LGBTQ relationships or tendencies to be “socially acceptable” or “equal to so-called traditional family or sexual relationships”.

“People — authors, publishers, just people — will think twice before they mention anything LGBT-related,” she said in an interview from Cologne, Germany.

On Thursday, the European Union also expressed concern about the passage of the bill.

“These legislative developments fuel homophobia and further deepen the ruthless suppression of any critical and alternative discourse in the context of Russia’s illegal, unwarranted and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine,” it said in a statement.

Schulman said the bill was also a “big win” for the communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, which had already “taken over the powers of the political police” and was now given the power and responsibility to monitor all kinds of information for what-it called LGBTQ “propaganda”.

Rights groups say they will continue to fight for minority rights even as the space for expression is shut down.

“We plan to protect people from this absurd law,” Natalya Solovyova, head of the Russian LGBT Network, told AFP.

“LGBT people are not leaving, they still need our help and support.”

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