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The Russian parliament has voted almost unanimously to pass a law to punish the promotion of homosexuality with fines and jail terms.
436 deputies voted in favour and none against. There was one abstention.
The law – condemned by gay rights campaigners – bans what it calls the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. The word “homosexual” was removed from the text but in parliament one of the law’s backers said “traditional” relations were between a man and a woman.
“It outlaws the spreading of information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual attitudes among children,” said Duma deputy Elena Mizulina.
She also confirmed that it would become an offence to say that gay and straight relationships were equal. “A distorted perception”, she added.
Under the law people can be fined up to a maximum of over 2,000 euros if the offence is committed via the media. Foreigners who promote homosexuality can be fined, detained for 15 days and deported.
Outside the Duma, gay activists were heavily outnumbered by the law’s supporters.
“Of course I will never support this law, because it outlaws a certain group. It divides people into equal and unequal, so same-sex couples automatically fall into the wrong category,” said Marta, one of the bill’s opponents.
In clashes between the rival groups, about 20 gay activists were arrested. One was photographed nearby being kicked by a schoolboy.
Human Rights Watch has condemned the law for discrimination and a violation of rights.
Activists claim anti-gay violence has increased; Russian authorities say two recent murders could be linked to homophobia.
The bill now goes to the Senate before being signed into law by President Vladimir Putin – steps considered to be a formality.