Vladimir Putin

Russia’s State Duma this week unanimously voted to support expanding the notorious ‘gay propaganda’ law. The proposed legislation would prohibit sharing positive or neutral information about LGBTIQA+ people, as well as banning the public ‘display’ of non-heterosexual orientations. Violations of the proposed law would met with significant financial penalties – up to $6,500 for individuals, and $81,000 for legal entities such as NGOs.

The Duma is the lower house in the Russian political system. The legislation will still need to be passed through the upper house before becoming law, and will need approval from Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

These proposals are an expansion of legislation introduced in 2013, which already sought to prohibit positive or neutral depiction or discussion of LGBTIQA+ people among children. The expansion would extend that to a blanket ban on all public information and activities, and does not exclude art, scientific studies or education.

The move has been condemned by human rights campaigners. Tanya Lokshina, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ law was an unabashed example of political homophobia, and the new draft legislation amplifies that in broader and harsher ways,

“Just as the original law resulted in significant stigma and harm toward LGBT people in Russia, this updated version will have an even more stifling effect on freedom of expression, well-being and security.”

Campaigners say that the 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ law has been extensively used by the Russian government to stifle pro-LGBT events and to shutdown NGOs and media outlets. In 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee found the 2013 law to be “ambiguous, disproportionate and discriminatory” and denounced “a blanket restriction on legitimate expressions of sexual orientation.” The European Court of Human Rights reiterated similar conclusions, in particular that “differences based solely on considerations of sexual orientation are unacceptable under the [European Convention on Human Rights]” and that Russian legislation stating the inferiority of same-sex relationships was not justifiable.

“This law – like its predecessor – doesn’t protect anyone, but seeks to stoke fear and hatred about a minority. It cuts off kids from the services they need to thrive, and in some cases even survive,” Lokshina said. “The proposed legislation and the original ‘gay propaganda’ ban have no place in any society and belong in the trash.”

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Image credit: The Russian Presidential Palace and Information Office – Creative Commons