On Wednesday 16th November, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill which introduces into St Petersburg Law on “administrative offences in St Petersburg” fines for “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism, to minors” and “propaganda of paedophilia”:
Article 71. Public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderness amongst minors.
Public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderness amongst minors incur imposition of fine on citizens in the amount from one to three thousand rubles; on officials – from three to five thousand rubles; on legal entities – from ten to fifty thousand rubles.
Article 72. Public actions aimed at propaganda of pedophilia.
Public actions aimed at propaganda of pedophilia incur imposition of administrative fine on citizens in the amount from one to three thousand rubles; on officials – from three to five thousand rubles; on legal entities – from ten to fifty thousand rubles ($1,600).
A second reading takes places today, Wednesday 23rd November, although it is expected that this too will pass, given the unanimous vote of 27 to 1 vote, with one abstention. The bill will become a law when it has passed three hearings and is signed by the governor. Nikolai Alexeyev of the GayRussia.ru said the bill could become “the main legal reason to deny any public actions by the LGBT community.”
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, yet each year gay pride parade applications are met with rejections, and any which do go ahead result in riots involving police and anti-gay rioters.
Sadly there are too many places in the world where it is unsafe to be openly gay, due to backwards governments and the uneducated mentalities of those in power. In may 2011 Ugandan leaders attempted to introduce an anti-homosexuality bill, dubbed the “Kill the Gays bill”, this has been shelved for now. Also in May 2011 a bill was passed in Tennessee, known as the “Don’t Say Gay bill”, which bans elementary and middle school teachers from discussing homosexuality within school lessons, limiting instruction or material to “age-appropriate natural human reproduction science,” explaining that the language was fitting because “homosexuals don’t naturally reproduce.”
However, in restricting speech about homosexuality, rather than heterosexuality, this creates a one-sided agenda, in addition, it will likely prevent anti-bullying initiatives, limiting the number of people children have to talk to, particularly for those being bullied due to their own sexual orientation.
In what is essentially another attempt to legalise discrimination, Michigan Senate Republicans passed “anti-bullying” legislation in August 2011 which sets out that schools cannot prohibit “a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.” This is essentially allowing religious beliefs to justify harassment. The very notion that, within a law aimed to protect the vulnerable, it also ensures that religious beliefs be given special attention leaves me completely bewildered. In Time magazine Amy Sullivan argues that “social conservatives believe that efforts to protect gays from assault, discrimination or bullying impinge on their religious freedom to express and act on their belief that homosexuality is an abomination”.
Amnesty international has stated that this latest anti-gay bill to be introduced in Russia “would threaten freedom of expression and fuel discrimination against the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community”. Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director, went on to say that “The notion that LGBTI rights activists are somehow converting Russia’s youth through ‘propaganda’ would be laughable, if the potential effects of this new law weren’t so dangerous and wide-reaching”.
If this bill is passed, it must be remembered that in March 2010, the Committeee of Ministers voted unanimously to approve Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states
on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity:
Recognising that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons have been for centuries and are still subjected to homophobia, transphobia and other forms of intolerance and discrimination even within their family – including criminalisation, marginalisation, social exclusion and violence – on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that specific action is required in order to ensure the full enjoyment of the human rights of these persons;
Paragraph 13 of the document, which Russia agreed to, reads:
“13. Member states should take appropriate measures to ensure, in accordance with Article 10 of the Convention [on Human Rights], that the right to freedom of expression can be effectively enjoyed, without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, including with respect to the freedom to receive and impart information on subjects dealing with sexual orientation or gender identity.”
So far an online petition by All Out has amassed 166,968 signatures in its attempt to gain worldwide notice from international and European human rights treaties. Whether this makes a difference is yet to be seen.
A vote on the law has been postponed until next week, November 30th.