New legislation has been passed banning the distribution of information on LGBT issues to children in an area of Russia.
An amendment to a statute called ‘On guaranteeing the rights of children’ has gone through the regional legislature of Kostroma in the ‘Golden Ring’ of Western Russia.
The website GayRussia has reported that this amendment makes it an offence to organise public LGBT events to which minors could be exposed.
It also means that it is prohibited to educate children about LGBT issues.
The amendment makes the offence punishable with heavy fines which range from 5,000 roubles ($155 €120) for individuals to 100,000 roubles (£3,109 €120) for organisations.
The sponsor of the amendment said it was designed to ‘defend the moral structures of the family and strengthen the physical and spiritual health of young people.’
The ban on information about LGBT issues is an amendment to an existing ban on distributing information about paedophilia.
A video has also appeared on YouTube in protest to the plans showing a girl holding a poster that says ‘MPs – gays and lesbians are not paedophiles – engage your brains.’
When asked what she is doing the girl states that she thinks the amendment is demeaning and that being gay is completely normal.
A passer-by then asks her is she is gay and she does not answer.
The legislation is reminiscent of section 28 of the Local Government Act in the UK introduced in 1988 and only repealed in 2003.
The act stated that a local authority should 'not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.'
The difference between section 28 and the Russian legislation is that section 28 did not create a criminal offence and therefore no one was prosecuted under it. But it did mean that many schools self-censored information on LGBT issues and many LGBT pupil support groups closed their doors.
The Russian law also appears to go much further, banning what ordinary members of the public and external organisations do, not just what is done with government money. And activists are worried that the law will be applied broadly in Russia to attack any kind of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rights work.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993 but the country remains notoriously hostile to LGBT people.
Since decriminalisation no legislation has been introduced to deal address discrimination against the Russian LGBT community.
Kostroma joins the legislatures of Archangel and Riazan in having similar bans.
In November 2011 a similar law received a first reading in the legislature of St Petersburg and according to Russian media legislation is also being drafted in Moscow.
Watch the protest video (in Russian) here: