73 people have been prosecuted for violating St Petersburg’s so called ‘homosexual propaganda’ ban in the first four months that the legislation has been in place, St Petersburg police revealed on Friday.
‘73 people have been prosecuted for homosexual propaganda and one person for paedophile propaganda,’ St Petersburg Police Chief Sergei Umnov said on Friday in a statement released by St Petersburg Police.
The law was promoted by the ruling United Russia party and adopted by St Petersburg's city assembly in February following the introduction of similar laws in the Russian administrative regions of Ryazan and Arkhangelsk in 2006 and 2011.
The St Petersburg law punishes ‘homosexual propaganda’ in public alongside paedophile propaganda with fines of up to $15,600, and is designed to protect children from positive messages about LGBT people.
St Petersburg Police did not reveal what the individuals had done to break the law or what fines were issued.
However eight would have been the activists arrested when they tried to ignore the city’s ban on gay pride marches on July 7, and another would be Nikolai Alekseyev who was arrested in May for holding up a banner quoting a Soviet actress which read, ‘homosexuality is not a perversity, perverse is hockey on grass and ballet on ice.'
The US State Department issued a statement condemning the bill after its first reading in November last year.
‘We are deeply concerned by proposed local legislation in Russia that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and indeed all Russians,’ the statement read.
However the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed US criticism on the issue as ‘inappropriate.’
Russia legalized homosexuality in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union but only ceased to class it as a mental disorder in 1999, and homophobic attitudes are still widespread, with around 70 percent of Russians believing it to be immoral.