The governor of St Petersburg in Russia has signed a bill into law which is designed to gag the local gay and transgender population.
The law officially prevents the ‘propaganda of homosexuality to minors’ but campaigners warn it will be used to gag any public discussion of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues or events targeted at gay and trans people.
The St Petersburg bill has fines of up to 1 million roubles ($34,400 €25,000) for organizations and up to 5,000 roubles ($172 €125) for individuals.
The bill, introduced by the local Duma, was 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.
Protests were held outside Russian embassies in cities including Berlin, Buenos Aires, Milan, Antwerp, Lisbon, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.
After it passed through the Duma on 29 March, governor Georgiy Poltavchenko had 14 days to sign it or send it back to them.
In a final insult to international opinion, it now appears Georgiy Poltavchenko signed the bill on 7 March, the same day that a delegation from St Petersburg’s twin city of Manchester, northern England, visited him and begged him to veto it.
The news has only emerged today via his press office as it’s the first working day since an official holiday which started on 8 March.
Once signed the legislation comes into force after 10 days, so on 17 March.
A similar law in the Kostroma region or Russia came into force already at the end of February.
There are now laws in four Russian regions which ‘ban propaganda of homosexuality to minors’. Together they cover 5.5% of the country’s population.
The Ryazan legislation was introduced in 2006 and has been challenged by GayRussia.eu at the European Court of Human Rights in a case that is not yet open and at the UN Human Rights Committee, where a decision is expected this July. Russian Constitutional Court, meanwhile, judged this law constitutional.
The 2011 Arkhangelsk legislation, also challenged by the same activist group, is expected to reach the European Court in two months. They are also planning to launch a legal campaign against the Kostroma and St Petersburg laws soon.