Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma has passed a new bill that outlaws activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and their supporters.
The new legislation bans the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”, which refers to homosexual relations.
Critics said it would restrict sexual health education and impede the fight against AIDS and homophobic prejudices.
Individuals found guilty of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” will face fines of up to 5,000 roubles (120 euros), whilst organisations will be liable for fines of up to one million roubles (24,000 euros) and may have their activities suspended.
John Dalhuisen, the Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, said of the laws: “They represent a sorry attempt by the government to bolster its popularity by pandering to the most reactionary elements of Russian society – at the expense of fundamental rights and the expression of individual identities.”
Ahead of the vote, a group of activists gathered outside the Duma to engage in a “kissing protest” and according to reports around 20 people were detained by police.
A second bill was also passed, which imposes penalties for “insults to citizens’ religious beliefs and feelings” and which has also been criticised for being broad and vague in nature.
The law follows last year’s trial and conviction of three members of the protest group Pussy Riot for performing a ‘punk prayer’ in a Moscow church. The case attracted international media attention and support from celebrities including Madonna and Yoko Ono.
Gay rights denied also in Uganda
Russia’s gay ‘propaganda’ law came just ahead of the release of ‘Call Me Kuchu’, a film documenting the story of Uganda’s LGBT community, a group that has faced similar repression and homophobic violence.
Same-sex relationships are currently illegal in Uganda, but an Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposed in 2009 would broaden the criminalisation, introduce the death penalty and life imprisonment as punishment, and include consequences for individuals who know gay people or support LGBT rights.
The film centres on David Kato, the first openly gay man in the history of Uganda, and his plight to both block the hateful legislation and educate his fellow citizens on what it means to be LGBT. Watch the trailer here