What you need to know about Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” bill

HeOn Thursday, Russian lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that would ban all forms of government LGBTQ “propaganda” in media, movies, books and advertisements. The bill also prohibits Russians from promoting or “glorifying” homosexual relationships or publicly saying they are “normal.”

Human rights groups warn that if the bill is signed into law by President Vladimir Putin – which it almost certainly is – it would be another example of the persecution the LGBTQ community has faced in Russia in recent years. .

Below is the latest on what the Russian parliament voted on and what’s next.

What does the “gay propaganda” bill say?

The new “gay propaganda” bill expands on existing legislation passed by the Kremlin in 2013 to promote “traditional” family values ​​in Russia. A 2013 law banned depictions of homosexuality, same-sex unions and “non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. The new bill would extend these restrictions to all ages.

The bill also bans what authorities describe as “pedophilia and sex reassignment propaganda.” Although the concept of propaganda is loosely defined in the draft law, it strictly prohibits the use of any means for disseminating any information related to it.

Dilya Gafurova, head of the Sfera Foundation, a Russian LGBT+ organization based in St. Petersburg, said, “In fact, it is a complete ban on being LGBT+ in Russia.”

When is the new law expected to come into effect?

On Thursday, the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, approved the bill in its third and final reading. The bill must now be approved by the Federation Council or the upper house of parliament. From there it will go to Putin, his signature will give it legal force.

Gafurova, a Russian LGBT advocate, expects Putin to sign the bill into law either in December of this year or in January of 2023, calling the process “rushed.” “In Russia, this usually means that the legislature is as good as it is at this stage,” he said, as the law was passed in the Duma on Thursday.

Read more: Russian Activists Win Important Battle for LGBTQ Rights But the war is far from over

What consequences will the Russian LGBTQ community face?

Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on the social network that “any propaganda of non-traditional relations will have consequences.”

Although the bill does not criminalize violations, they will be punished by a fine of 100,000 to 2 million rubles ($1,660-33,000). Non-residents who commit certain violations of the law can also be deported from Russia after being detained for 15 days.

Gafurova says that while the previous law was rarely used against individuals and mostly against websites or the speech of individual protesters, it will now allow authorities to go on a “witch hunt.” It will have other far-reaching implications, he adds: “It has made our lives difficult because the phrase is so vague that it can be used arbitrarily.”

According to the Associated Press, some lawmakers also supported a separate bill that would criminalize any so-called “gay propaganda.”

Where are LGBTQ rights in Russia?

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia and discrimination are still widespread. Today, the country is ranked 46 out of 49 for LGBTQ inclusion in European countries by the ILGA-Europe watchdog.

In 2020, Russia outlawed same-sex marriage in the country’s constitution, adopting amendments that stipulated that the institution of marriage is “the union of a man and a woman.”

Putin, who has close ties to the Orthodox Church, has publicly rejected same-sex relationships. In his speeches in the Kremlin, he criticized same-sex marriages and the parenthood of these couples. “Do we really want to have “parent number one”, “parent number two” or “parent number three” instead of “mother” and “father” here, in our country, in Russia? said in September. “Have they gone completely mad?”

LGBTQ advocates in Russia have reported many incidents of hatred and violence against the community. Previous pride events in St. Petersburg and Moscow have been marred by state violence and arrests, while attacks on LGBTQ people by both individuals and organized homophobic groups have increased in Russia since the 2013 law. Human Rights Watch 2014 report.

Public sentiment also reflects low tolerance for LGBTQ recognition: In a global poll conducted by Ipsos in April and May 2021, 52% of respondents in Russia opposed same-sex marriage.

Gafurova, an employee of the “Sfera” Foundation, says that she met with broad support for the newly adopted bill. “It’s very sad for us, but it fits the traditional ideas of family values ​​in Russia,” he says.

Read more: Russia’s anti-homosexual laws: how a Dutch activist was caught

How do human rights defenders react to this law?

In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia’s “gay propaganda law” was discriminatory, promoted homophobia and violated the European Convention on Human Rights and “served no legitimate public interest.” The court rejected suggestions that public discussion of LGBTQ issues could influence children to become gay or threaten public morality.

Meanwhile, the Sfera Foundation says it will continue to appeal to Russian citizens and parliamentarians to block the law’s entry into force through national and global petitions — so far, nearly 120,000 people have signed online petitions, including more than 83,000 Russians. They will also continue to support the LGBTQ community virtually.

Gafurova says: “We at least wanted to give people hope.

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