The Kremlin in Moscow (Pic: Jean & Nathalie)
Human Rights Watch has warned of a new anti-gay law pending in Russia’s parliament that would penalise people who simply appear or act gay in in public.
Introduced on October 29 by two Communist Party MPs, Ivan Nikitchuk and Nikolai Arefyev, the bill proposes fines of between four and five thousand rubles (US$65-$80) for “the public expression of non-traditional sexual relations, manifested in a public demonstration of personal perverted sexual preferences in public places.”
If such public displays occur “on territories and in institutions, providing educational, cultural or youth services,” the offender will be fined or put under arrest for up to 15 days.
The draft law is so vague that any public behaviour, from holding hands to hugging or kissing – or simply behaviour that authorities deem non-gender-conforming – could be considered an offence, explained Human Rights Watch.
“This draft law is a new and absurd low in discriminatory legislative proposals,” commented Tanya Cooper, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The draft proposes to effectively outlaw being gay, and just being yourself could land you behind bars.”
In an explanatory note, the authors argue that homosexuality is “socially infectious,” especially for children and teenagers. They also equate homosexuality with paedophilia.
Nikitchuk said in a media interview that the law would be applied only to gay men, because women are “more reasonable” and “respected.” In another interview, he condemned Western countries for protecting the rights of LGBT people as human rights, saying that “normal people,” especially the young, should be protected from “these mentally abnormal” people. He also called gay people “cattle” and said they “infect people around them.”
“The authors are using false, abusive, homophobic rhetoric in discussions of their draft law,” Cooper said. “As public officials, they should at a bare minimum respect the rights enshrined in the constitution and international law, and not engage in rhetoric that borders on hate speech.”
This is not the first discriminatory Russian bill that aims to restrict the freedom of expression and association of the LGBT community.
In 2013, President Putin signed a law prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships. The “gay propaganda” law effectively bars any expression or discussion of homosexuality in public, on television, in print or on the internet.
The law has been blamed for increased anti-gay sentiment, discrimination and violence against members of the LGBT community.