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Russia essentially bans the gay

MOSCOW -- Russia's parliament, the State Duma, today unanimously passed a federal law banning "gay propaganda" and "non-traditional sexual relations," drawing widespread criticism from human-rights groups. One deputy abstained from voting.

The federal law, similar to the one passed by St. Petersburg last year, is designed to "protect children from information that can bring harm to their health and well-being."

ILGA-Europe immediately appealed to international and European institutions not only to condemn this law, but to consider meaningful actions again Russia demanding to repeal this law and to stop state-sponsored homophobia in the country.

Martin K.I. Christensen, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s executive board, feared for the safety of LGBT Russians.

“This is a very sad day for the Russian LGBTI community and for Russian democracy," he said. "Today the Russian Parliament cemented its homophobic law at the federal level. Despite strong condemnation by virtually all international and European institutions and human rights organizations, Russian lawmakers have chosen to disregard their international human rights commitments and to ignore their own Constitution. Today the Russian Duma demonstrated that homophobia is an official state policy.”

Gabi Calleja, co-chair of the executive board, worried about the law's impact on LGBT Russians.

“We are deeply concerned by the negative impact of this law," she said. "Homophobic rhetoric which accompanied the adoption of this law at the regional and federal level for the last few years already significantly contributed toward a climate of hatred and physical violence against LGBTI people which recently resulted in a number of murders.”

Adopted regional and federal laws banning "homosexual propaganda" are part of a wider systematic crackdown on Russian LGBTI and civil society movements in general, ILGA-Europe said. Recently adopted laws on foreign agents constitute a very serious and a real threat to the mere existence of civil society organizations: currently a St. Petersburg LGBT film festival Bok-o-Bok is on trial in court and potentially faces high financial penalties for not registering foreign support.

More details from the Russian LGBT Network:

Instead of "propaganda of homosexuality" the term "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" is used. Also this bill included such legally ambiguous terms as "non-traditional sexual attitudes," "distorted image of equality of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships." Adoption of this law means that any mentioning of sexual relationships considered "non-traditional" by the law enforcer will be fined as the law talks about banning the spreading information and expressing one’s opinion about "distorted image of equality of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships” and “appeal of non-traditional sexual relationships." The enforcement of this law will endanger the freedom of gathering as it allows suspension of any organization’s activity and a fine up to 1 million rubles, which could mean impossibility for organizations to operate. Foreigners will be punished stricter than Russian citizens, up to 15 days of arrest and expulsion from the country.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has faced protests on foreign trips for this chilling abuse of human rights. Activists ask: First the gays, then who?

Anti-gay laws have ramped up homophobia and violence against LGBT Russians in a nation not known to be friendly toward the LGBT community. Dozens of LGBT activists protesting the laws have been arrested, jailed and fined. Several men have been murdered in recent months simply for being gay.

London-based human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is no stranger to the brutal ways of Russian authorities, having been beaten and arrested four times for participating in successive Moscow Gay Pride parades, from 2007 to 2011.

“This new law is symptomatic of Putin’s increasing authoritarianism and his crackdown on civil society. It violates the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, and the European Convention on Human Rights, which Russia has signed and pledged to uphold," he said.

“Although the law is ostensibly aimed at prohibiting the dissemination of so-called ‘gay propaganda’ to young persons under 18, in reality it will criminalise any public advocacy of gay equality or same-sex HIV education where a young person could potentially see it," Tatchell said.

“In practice, gay marches, festivals, posters, magazines, books, welfare advice and safer sex education will be at risk of criminal prosecution," he said.

“It is a blanket censorship of any public expression of same-sex love or gay human rights. This is likely to result in the purging of many books, films and plays from libraries, schools, theatres and cinemas, including many classic works of art and literature.

“It is one of the harshest laws against gay freedom of expression anywhere in the world,” Tatchell said.