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UN tells Russia to scrap anti-gay ‘propaganda’ bill

UN rights experts advise Russian Duma to scrap bill on ‘homosexuality propaganda’
UN rights experts advise Russian State Duma to scrap bill on ‘homosexuality propaganda’

A group of United Nations independent human rights experts called on Russian lawmakers to scrap the law against ‘homosexual propaganda’.

The group call upon the lower house of the Russian parliament, today (1 Feburary) to drop the bill that imposes severe penalties and which has already been approved by the State Duma.

The experts on freedom of expression, human rights defenders, cultural rights and the right to health warned the bill may undermine the enjoyment and promotion of human rights in Russia, unjustifiably singling out lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, who have increasingly become the target of sanctions and violence in the country.

Frank La Rue, a UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said: ‘Any restriction on freedom of opinion and expression should be based on reasonable and objective criteria, which is not fulfilled by the draft bill approved during the first reading by the Duma’.

‘The law could potentially be interpreted very broadly and thereby violate not only the right to freedom of expression but also the prohibition of discrimination’.

Margaret Sekaggya, a UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, warned that this legislation could be used to unduly restrict the activities of those advocating for the rights of LGBT individuals.

She said: ‘The draft legislation could further contribute to the already difficult environment in which these defenders operate, stigmatizing their work and making them the target of acts of intimidation and violence, as has recently happened in Moscow.

Farida Shaheed, UN special rapporteur cultural rights underlined how Russian LGBT youth may be particularly affected by the bill.

She said: ‘We fear that such laws, in practice, will exacerbate an already difficult situation for LGBT individuals wishing to express their identity, and will hamper the organization of cultural events or dissemination of artistic creations addressing LGBT issues’.

The bill may also impact negatively health issues, warned the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover: ‘banning ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ may not only penalize those who promote sexual and reproductive health among LGBT people, but will also undermine the right of children to access health-related information in order to safeguard their physical and mental health’.

The UN experts pointed out that the ‘window of opportunity is still open’ to reverse the decision during the next two readings at the Duma.

The UN experts urged Russian parliamentarians to ‘exercise leadership by scrapping the bill to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia’.

The bill has to pass two more readings in the Russia Duma, and if adopted it would not only make gay pride parades a prosecutable offense, but even something as simple as waving the rainbow flag could be punishable.

The bill would make promotion of public events and dissemination of information on LGBT issues to minors illegal.

Fines are steep in comparison with average Russian incomes, with those violating the law being forced to pay penalties of between €100 and €12,500 (US$ 130 and US$ 16,966), the latter representing the average annual salary in the country.

Both the EU and German foreign ministers have criticized Russia’s intention to legislate a nationwide anti-gay ‘propaganda’ law.

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