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Russia snubs Council of Europe over gay rights

The Council of Europe conference of ministers ended for the first time in its history without a declaration being adopted due to Russia's opposition to a mention of gay rights
During a conference of the Council of Europe at St. Petersburg, Russia rejected an agreement supporting LGBT rights

Russia refused to sign a declaration issued at the 9th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for youth, which included an article against discrimination of LGBT youth. 

The conference was concluded today in St. Petersburg, Russia, and for the first time since 1985 a declaration was not adopted.

The theme of the conference this year was 'young people’s access to rights: development of innovative youth policies.'

On the eve of the conference, Russia’s minister of education and science, Dmitry Livanov, noted that ‘we need to find new forms to enhance tolerance and socialization [of young people].’

However, on Tuesday (September 25), the Russian deputy minister of education and science refused to sign the declaration, as it contained ‘an item referring to the requirement to combat discrimination and violation of rights of LGBT youth.’

The deputy minister declared that ‘they [LGBT] are not discriminated against and have all the rights as other citizens, and inclusion of such a special item in the resolution would in effect constitute propaganda of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderness.’

By taking such a radical step, Russia, in effect, has openly declared support for discrimination against LGBT citizens.

The comments and refusal to sign the declaration outraged the education ministers of Belgium and Sweden.

Belguim's minister for youth, education and equal opportunities Pascal Smet pointed out that it is necessary to include the principle of non-discrimination against LGBT people in any anti-discrimination provisions, especially when it comes to youth: ‘It's about human dignity and human rights. Giving information [about homosexuality] does not make you gay. It is not propaganda.’.

Sweden's minister for gender equality and deputy minister of education, Nyamko Sabuni, said that although she was disappointed with this outcome of the conference, the adoption of a declaration that did not include the protection of LGBT people against discrimination would be a far more serious disappointment. She emphasized the willingness of Sweden to work further on the resolution of this issue.

Deputy secretary general of the Council of Europe Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni expressed her concern that the declaration was not adopted.

She pointed out that Russia’s position threatens conclusion of the next agreement between Russia and the Council of Europe in the field of youth policy (due for next year). It also affects the implementation of a number of international youth projects and programs with participation of Russian youth and youth organizations.

Speaking with Gay Star news, Polina Savchenko, director of St. Petersburg's Coming Out LGBT organization, said: ‘Russia refused to sign the agreement, due to its internal and external politics about “traditional values”.

‘Anti-homosexual propaganda laws are becoming widespread with nine regions have already adopted them and it is also being discussed on a federal level.

‘Since the declaration item is related to LGBT youth anti-discrimination measures, while the conference was taking place in St. Petersburg which adopted an anti-homosexual propaganda law, Russia’s refusal was consistent with its politics.

‘Russia’s politics is oriented towards less and less freedom, especially for LGBT people, restricting self-expression, access to information and freedom of assembly.

‘While there are no sanctions attached this declaration it is highly symbolic that Russia refused to join other signatory countries in rejecting this agreement over the issue of sexual orientation.

‘It shows that Russia cares less and less about what Europe thinks or international treaties regarding LGBT rights.’

Russia’s minister of education and science, Dmitry Livanov, remained defiant stating on twitter that an article entitled ‘Our track record in Europe is unspoilt’ [regarding LGBT rights] is ‘a calm and objective account of what happened in St. Petersburg’.

Russian LGBT rights advocate Nikolai Alexeyev told Gay Star News: ‘Of course officials are under the obligation to demonstrate they are supporting the anti-homosexual propaganda law and not supporting LGBT rights in anyway.

'Hence this symbolic protest, a kind of sabotage of the declaration just to show they are against gay rights.

'It just shows the intention of Russia, its complete dismissive attitude towards the council of Europe was is deliberating the refusal of Russian authorities to allow Moscow Pride as demanded by the European Court of Human Rights.

'It is all shows that Russia has no intention of respecting international conventions and obligations that deal with LGBT rights.

'I think Russia is becoming more aggressive because there is increasing pressures from all sides, from the European Union, the United Nations, international diplomacy and so of for more protection of LGBT rights.

'Russia is simply isolating itself from the modern world, while advocating its perspective of traditional values.' 

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