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New Russian Law Makes Publication of Information on Gay Rights Illegal

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, June 12 2013

Would this constitute "gay propaganda"? (Wikipedia)

On June 11 the Russian parliament passed a bill against “homosexual propaganda” that effectively outlaws gay rights rallies and bans informational or pro-gay rights material from publication in the media or on the Internet. Violators of the law will risk heavy fines and censorship and, in the case of a media outlet, risk being shut down. It had near unanimous support, passing in a 436-to-0 vote, with only one abstention.

The law is being justified as a necessary protection for children, and for traditional heterosexual relationships.

“Traditional sexual relations are relations between a man and a woman,” a lawmaker announced in parliament, “which . . .are a condition for the preservation and development of the multi-ethnic Russian people. It is precisely these relations that need special protection by the state.”

The law holds individuals as well as organizations accountable for the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” According to AFP, Russians could be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($3,000) for posting offending material on the Internet, as can foreign nationals, who can also be imprisoned for up to 15 days and then deported. Organizations can be fined up to one million rubles ($30,850) and can be shut down for up to 90 days. The BBC reported that businesses and schools could be fined up to 500,000 rubles.

Peter Tatchell has participated in Gay Pride parades in Moscow in the past, and suffered physical assaults of varying severity as a result. Speculating on the potential repercussions from the passage of the law, he writes:

LGBT organisations, meetings, festivals, marches, posters, newspapers, books, films, counselling and safer sex education are likely to face criminal prosecution. The same risk of criminalisation will apply to same-sex couples who publicly identify and affirm themselves or who express affection in public. Any suggestion that homosexuality is just as valid as heterosexuality will incur the danger of a police knock on the door.

. . .

It could result in the purging of books, films and plays with LGBT characters and story-lines from libraries, galleries, theatres and cinemas, including many classic works of art and literature.

LGBT visibility and pro-gay posts on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, will also be an offence if there is a possibility that a person under 18 could access and see them.

“The move was not surprising,” said Padraig Reidy, writing for the Index on Censorship.

The Putin years have been characterised by twin strands of piousness and machismo, epitomised [sic] by the regime's treatment of feminist group Pussy Riot after they staged a protest in a Moscow church. Meanwhile, Putin's announcement of his divorce from his wife this week went oddly unremarked upon by Orthodox church leader Patriarh Kirill, normally a vocal upholder of family values.

Reidy also brought up Anton Krasovsky, a broadcast journalist who came out on air. As a result, he lost his job and his cable channel was shut down.

Last month Krasovsky wrote a kind of call to arms in The Guardian:

How did it come about that today in Russia a good gay person is a dead gay person? How did there come to be a law [referring to the law just passed] in the Duma that forbids justifying homosexuality? Until now, the only thing you were forbidden to justify in my country was terrorism. Well, there you have it. So as far as the deputies are concerned I am not a human being in the same sense that they are; I am to be classed as scum, like a terrorist. As far as the deputies are concerned I am scum by the fact of my birth, and it was criminal negligence not to have made a note of that in my birth certificate. What seemed like a bad dream only a couple of years ago has now become reality. And it is terrifying to imagine what could happen tomorrow.

Terrifying indeed.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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