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Russia poised to bring in national gay gag law

Activists fear country-wide 'homosexual propaganda' law will increase violence against LGBT Russians
Activists fear country-wide 'homosexual propaganda' bill, due to be discussed in Russia's State Duma, will increase LGBT violence

A national anti-gay 'propaganda' bill, similar to the one passed in St Petersburg, threatens to silence Russia's gay community.

The proposed legislation will enter its first reading in the country's national parliament, the Duma, on 19 December.

If made law, fines would be imposed for 'spreading homosexual propaganda' among minors and would effectively gag gay and transgender people nationwide, potentially banning public discussion of LGBT issues or events targeted at gay and trans people.

Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the Russian LGBT Network, warned members of the state Duma not to 'discredit' themselves by adopting this 'absolutely senseless' law.

'One year of application of such laws in the regions have shown that, in practice, they are used to persecute dissidents, not to protect the children,' he said.

'Under the pretext of protecting the family the author of the bill actually destroys it, identifying a family as the "biological union of a man and a woman."

'In reality, this "farm" approach to people shows how some deputies look to us, their constituents.'

Gay activists fear the bill could also lead to an increase in attacks against LGBT Russians.

The country has seen a series of homophobic attacks recently, with unknown men targeting the exhibition of LGBT artists in St Petersburg in March and a gay club in Moscow stormed by 20 masked thugs in October.

Gay Moscow activist Nikolai Alekseev has previously said the bill would be difficult to implement on a national level.

In a statement made today (30 November), Alekseev said the law would violate Russia's international obligations for human rights.

He points to the decision of the UN Committee on Human Rights in the case of Irina Fedotova against Russia in which a conviction for homosexual propaganda in Ryazan was recognized to violate the right to freedom expression and non-discrimination enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The activist who spearheaded campaign website Gay Russia said: 'Adoption of this law will mean a new round of confrontation between Russia and the international community and may result in an even greater scandal than the adoption of a similar law in St Petersburg which has caused great harm to the city's reputation.'

The St Petersburg bill makes it an offense to engage in any 'propaganda' that could give minors 'the false perception that traditional and nontraditional relationships are socially equal.'

The Russian states of Arkhangelsk, Ryazan and Kostroma have already adopted similar anti-gay laws.

The laws have been roundly condemned by Europe, the US State Department, human rights organizations and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender campaigners and individuals as well as their straight allies.

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