Swedish Authorities Should Denounce Propaganda Bill

Civil Rights Defenders urges Swedish authorities to denounce the proposed Russian bill on “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” and call on Russian authorities to honor their international and domestic obligations in protection and fulfilment of human rights. 

The loosely worded bill — scheduled for a first reading in the State Duma on 19 December —punishes spreading propaganda of homosexuality among children, thus neglecting people’s fundamental right to freedom of expression and exposing the already marginalised LGBT community to further discrimination.

The bill does not specify what constitutes “propaganda of homosexuality” and, in practice, could be expanded to any information on homosexuality and sexual education. Due to the vagueness of the proposed law, the implementation will have devastating effects on people’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Furthermore, instead of protecting children from harmful information—like authors claim —the bill violates international law and Russia´s obligations to protect children’s rights. Under Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children are specifically guaranteed the right to impart seek and receive age-appropriate information.

Similar laws, recently passed in nine regions in Russia, have already demonstrated an increase in violence and hostility toward the LGBT community. The Russian LGBT Network and Coming Out, both partners of Civil Rights Defender, report a series of attacks against participants of peaceful LGBT events in regions where similar laws have been passed. Journalists practice self-censorship and refuse to cover LGBT-related stories in fear of repercussions.

Initially submitted for the State Duma’s consideration by the Legislative Assembly of Novosibirsk region in March, the draft legislation was put on State Duma’s calendar for discussion on 21 November, immediately following the landmark decision on Fedotova v. Russia case and only two weeks after local nongovernmental organisations’ alternative report to the UN Committee Against Torture on ill-treatment of LGBT people.

On 19 November the UN Human Rights Committee held that Russia had violated Irina Fedotova’s right to freedom of expression and protection against discrimination. Fedotova was arrested in April for posting banners by a nearby school saying “Homosexuality is normal” and “I am proud of my homosexuality.”

On 23 November the UN CAT pointed out that the Russian authorities should take effective measures to protect all vulnerable social groups, the LGBT community. Any acts of violence and discrimination against persons belonging to such groups should be investigated, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. Authorities were also reminded of the need for public condemnation of attacks the LGBT people.

If passed, the law would punish “propaganda of homosexuality among children” with a fine of up to 500 000 rubles (108 188 SEK).

Swedish authorities should urge Russian policymakers to dismiss further discussion of the bill, which would deteriorate the rights of Russian citizens.

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