Russia passes anti-LGBTQ law criminalizing so-called gay propaganda ~| Washington

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The lower house of Russia’s parliament has passed the final reading of a bill banning the promotion of “LGBT propaganda” to children, expanding a law passed in 2013.

Under the legislation, any attempt to promote homosexuality, including in films, books or advertisements, can be heavily fined.

The bill aims to prevent Russians from promoting or “praising” homosexual relationships or sex reassignment surgery or claiming they are “normal”.

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Citizens who promote what the Duma calls “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” could be fined up to $6,600; Organizations could be fined up to $82,100. Foreigners could be sentenced to up to 15 days and deported.

The law now goes to the upper chamber, which is expected to approve it, and to President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign it.

Rights activists say the legislation is an attempt to further repress sexual minorities in Russia, who are already facing challenges in a conservative society that has a history of preventing gay pride marches and attacking LGBTQ activists with impunity.

Tanya Lokshina, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, said the 2013 law was “a blatant example of political homophobia.” The new legislation, she said, reinforces it in “broader and tougher ways”.

“The original ban on ‘gay propaganda’ was intended to protect children from ‘propaganda’ — broadly defined as any positive or neutral depiction of non-heterosexual relationships,” Lokshina told the Washington Post. “While the bill retains increased penalties when children are involved, it expands it to a blanket ban that covers any public information or activity.”

Lokshina described the bill as an attempt by the Kremlin to deflect growing dissatisfaction with Russia’s war against Ukraine and recent battlefield failures.

How the law will be applied is unclear. There have been few instances of individuals being tried for “pro-gay propaganda” under the 2013 law, but it has increasingly been abused against cultural events, films and theatre. Lokshina said LGBTQ parents are particularly at risk.

Russian political activist Lucy Shtein said the legislation would ban “the representation of a large section of society”.

“The fight against the visibility of LGBTQ+ people in no way affects the number of such people, it only causes more suffering, forces them to hide and hate themselves,” she said.

Shtein said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made LGBTQ people more vulnerable as it is now much harder to evacuate Russian citizens who have been targeted by authorities. Russia’s campaign to mobilize new troops to fight in Ukraine and travel restrictions imposed on Russian citizens by foreign states in the wake of the invasion have restricted Russians’ freedom of movement.

The human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated sharply in the past year, Shtein said. The new law is “another nail in the coffin”.

“This war has shown that this government has every need of life and that its repression is particularly hard on communities that were already vulnerable before the war, including the LGBT community.”

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LGBTQ rights have been scapegoated in Putin’s Russia, and many experts link them to “anti-Russian” values ​​propagated by the West. Lawmakers argue that they are defending morality in the face of “decadent” values.

“LGBT [rights] today are an element of hybrid warfare, and in this hybrid warfare we must protect our values, our society and our children,” Alexander Khinshtein, one of the architects of the bill, said last month.

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