Russia’s foreign minister has rejected criticism about the proposed law that would outlaw ‘homosexual propaganda’ nationwide.
Sergey Lavrov said there are no obligations to Europe or any other country to respect gay people’s rights in Russia.
‘We don’t have a single international or common European commitment to allow propaganda of homosexuality,’ he said.
On 25 January, Russia’s lower house of parliament voted for support a bill banning public events celebrating the LGBT community as well as stopping people from ‘spreading information’ about gays to minors.
Due to the broad, unspecific nature of the bill, this means a gay couple holding hands or kissing in public could be fined.
Offenders will be punished with fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($166 â‚¬124) for individuals, and officials could be fined 10 times that amount. The penalty for companies would be 500,000 rubles ($166,000 â‚¬124,000).
Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans has slammed the law, saying ‘discrimination against homosexuals is unacceptable’.
In response, Lavrov insisted since homosexuality was decriminalized in 1991, gay people ‘can go about their business absolutely freely and unpunished.’
‘Russia has its own moral, religious and historical values,’ Lavrov said, warning against ‘another kind of discrimination when one group of citizens gets the right to aggressively promote their own values that run against those shared by the majority of the society and impose them on children.’
Gay rights activists have slammed the bill, and are hoping the bill can be reviewed.
Yelena Kostyuchenko, a gay rights campaigner, said: ‘The law absolutely does not define what gay propaganda is and the reasons are understandable because gay propaganda does not exist.’
LGBT campaigners in Russia have previously said the law is an excuse for the authorities to crack down on dissent and have reported a rise in homophobic attacks in regions that have introduced it.
Ten regions in Russia, including St Petersburg and most recently Kaliningrad, have already introduced an anti-gay propaganda bill.
The bill must now pass two more readings in the State Duma, be approved by the Federation Council and signed by Vladimir Putin before becoming law.