- Lawmakers say they are defending traditional values of the “Russian world” against a liberal West.
- Any act or information deemed to be an attempt to promote homosexuality is subject to a hefty fine.
- Authorities have already used existing law to stop gay pride marches and arrest gay rights activists.
Russia’s parliament on Thursday approved a bill expanding the ban on “LGBT propaganda” and restricting “demonstration” of LGBTQ+ behavior, making any expression of an LGBTQ+ lifestyle almost impossible.
Under the new law, which still requires the approval of the upper house of parliament and President Vladimir Putin, any act or information deemed to be an attempt to promote homosexuality – whether in public, online or in films, books or advertisements – could a severe punishment.
Previously, the law only banned the promotion of the LGBTQ+ lifestyle to children. The new law also bans the “demonstration” of LGBTQ+ behavior towards children.
Lawmakers say they defend traditional values of the “Russian world” against a liberal West determined to destroy them – an argument also increasingly used by officials as one of the justifications for Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Authorities have already used existing law to stop gay pride marches and arrest gay rights activists.
Rights groups say the new law aims to ban the so-called “non-traditional” LGBTQ+ lifestyle practiced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from public life altogether.
Dmitry, who goes by the stage name Kamilla Crazy White, performs during a drag queen show at a pub in Moscow on November 13, 2022. Source: AFP / (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)
“LGBT today is an element of hybrid warfare and in this hybrid warfare we must protect our values, our society and our children,” Alexander Khinstein, one of the architects of the bill, said last month.
Legal experts said the vagueness of the bill’s language gives law enforcement agencies room to interpret it as broadly as they like, leaving members of the LGBTQ+ community in a state of even greater uncertainty.
Kseniya Mikhailova of LGBTQ+ support group Vykhod (“Coming Out”) said gay bars or adult-only clubs are likely to continue to operate, although perhaps not to advertise, but that same-sex kissing in public will be considered an offence could .
And she said same-sex couples are beginning to fear their children could be taken away for being shown an LGBTQ+ lifestyle.
The law provides for fines of up to 400,000 rubles ($9,718) for individuals and up to 5 million rubles ($121,475) for legal entities. Foreigners were threatened with 15 days in prison and subsequent deportation.
Ms Mikhailova said the initial ban on LGBTQ+ “propaganda” targeting minors nine years ago sparked a wave of attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and she can now expect a “tsunami” as the amendment in place “says the state is not against violence against LGBT people”.
Political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann said the law aims to ban anything that shows LGBTQ+ relationships or inclinations are “socially acceptable” or “equated with so-called traditional family relationships or sexual relationships.”
“People – writers, publishers, just people – will think twice before even mentioning anything LGBT-related,” she said in an interview from Cologne, Germany.
Ms Schulman said the bill is also a “huge win” for communications regulator Roskomnadzor, which has already “assumed the powers of a political police force” and now has the power and responsibility to monitor all types of information in search of LGBTQ+ propaganda .
Video-sharing app TikTok was fined 3 million rubles last month for promoting “LGBT-themed videos,” while Russia’s media regulator asked publishers to remove all books featuring “LGBT propaganda” from the Russian media withdraw sale.