Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

Russia’s parliament has postponed its debate on a homophobic bill that aims to ban the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors.

The bill, say critics, will violate Russians’ freedom of expression and discriminate against and stigmatise Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

It was set to be debated by the Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, on Wednesday 19 December but this has now been moved to 22 January, reported  news agency, RIA Novosti.

“The proposed provisions attack the fundamental right to free speech, deny LGBT people equal rights, and violate Russia’s obligations under international and Russian law,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT program at Human Rights Watch. “Russia should listen to its prime minister, abide by its international commitments, and drop this homophobic bill.”

The bill would amend Russia’s Code of Administrative Law Violations. Under these amendments, individuals found responsible for “propaganda for homosexuality among minors” would face fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$160), and organisations would face fines of up to 500,000 rubles (US$16,000).

Similar laws banning “homosexual propaganda” have been adopted in nine Russian regions and are pending in another seven.

Alarmingly, the bill does not define the terms “propaganda,” “homosexuality,” or “among minors”.

“The draft law’s language is so vague that it could undermine any public efforts to address rampant discrimination of LGBT people in Russia,” Dittrich said.

In May, prominent Russian LGBT rights activist, Nikolai Alekseev, became the first person to be fined under a similar new law in St. Petersburg after he picketed city hall with a poster declaring “Homosexuality is not a perversion”.

Conservative groups unsuccessfully sued Madonna for violating the St. Petersburg legislation for stating her support for gay rights and distributing rainbow flags and pink bracelets at her August concert there. Such groups also called for teenagers to be barred from attending concerts in Russia by Lady Gaga, where she spoke out in favour of LGBT rights.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month said that he didn’t believe that the legislation, backed by his United Russia party, was needed as “not all relations between people can be regulated by law”.

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