Russian Duma Supports Draconian Bill

A Russian federal law banning “propaganda of homosexuality” was approved in its first reading in the State Duma on 25 January, with only one out of 390 deputies voting against it. The law imposes hefty administrative fines on “propaganda” among minors. LGBT activists, including Civil Rights Defender’s partner, the Russian LGBT Network, have expressed their deep concerns against this discriminatory law.

The bill is now in the hands of the Committee on Family, Women’s and Children’s Matters, which is to improve the draft legislation and to initiate a second reading in the Parliament. It is the committee´s task to adopt legal definitions of homosexuality or to replace it with a term that can be found in the Russian legislation. The committee is also responsible for clarifying the law, and the changes will be considered before the end of May.

If passed in the second and third readings and signed by the president, the legislation would effectively ban the promotion of homosexuality among minors in all of Russia.

“We are extremely concerned that the Russian Duma has passed this discriminatory bill in its first reading. The experience of similar regional laws has already shown that they are used to curtail freedom of expression and assembly. They have also lead to an increase of threats and harassment towards the LGBT-community. We therefore strongly urge the Russian Duma to dismiss the bill,” said Cecilia Rosing, Eurasia Programme Officer, Civil Rights Defenders.

Similar laws have been adopted on the local level in 10 regions across the country. Most recently last week, Kaliningrad Regional Duma went a step further and adopted a law banning “propaganda of homosexuality” not only among minors but also in the general population.

“Like many other recent legal initiatives the protection of children is used to cover the real wish – to silence everyone who thinks or speaks up differently from the officials, and also to hide the government’s inability to solve real social problems,” said Igor Kochetkov, chair of the Russian LGBT Network.

The attitude toward the law in the Duma also appeared absolutist as only one out of 390 deputies voted against the proposed amendments to the law on Friday, and one person abstained.

The federal law imposes heavy administrative fines on “propaganda of homosexuality” among minors (Article 6.13.1) – ranging from 4,000 to 5,000RUB (132-165USD) for individuals; 40,000 to 50,000RUB (1300-1600USD) for officials; and 400,000 to 500,000 RUB (13 200-16 500USD) for companies.

Russian LGBT activists, including Civil Rights Defenders partner the Russian LGBT Network, have expressed their deep concerns against the discriminatory Article 6.13.1 since the Novosibirsk Legislative Assembly first submitted it to the federal legislation in March.

Since late November all our partners have participated in demonstrations against the federal bill. The Russian LGBT Network has organized a nation-wide campaign against the bill, where activists all across Russia picketed “Against Article 6.13.1” near regional and federal legislative buildings.

Peaceful pickets in front of State Duma in Moscow in December and last week turned into attacks against the LGBT activists by a group of people, who identified as Orthodox activists.

Neither in December, nor on the day of the first reading did police interfere to protect the peaceful picketers, but rather the opposite —18 LGBT activists were detained and later released by the police last week.

In Voronezh, where LGBT activists organized several pickets in the week leading up to the first reading, a group of anti-gay opponents threw bottles, snowballs and other objects at the pro-gay protesters. Several people sustained injuries, at least four medically reported them, of which one person filed a formal complaint. The Russian LGBT Network is involved in processing this case.

The head of the Duma committee has publicly stated that an LGBT representative will be be included in the process to clarify the law.

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