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St. Petersburg bans promotion of ‘gay lifestyles’

Published time: February 08, 2012 18:23
Edited time: February 08, 2012 22:23

St Petersburg LGBT community leaders protesting against homophobia and repressions (RIA Novosti / Rostislav Koshelev)

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Russia’s second city has banned the promotion of gay lifestyles in the presence of children. The newly-adopted bill bans any public activity that “might encourage paedophilia.”

Under the proposed legislation, promoting homosexuality will be punishable by fines ranging from 5,000 rubles ($168) for individuals to 500,000 rubles ($16,800) for legal entities. This is almost 10 times more than in the first version of the law.

The bill, first submitted back in November 2011, outraged Russia’s human rights and gay rights watchdogs. They claimed that the wording was too discriminatory.

The new version of the law explains what exactly is meant by “public activities aimed at the propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgender among youth.”

As the law goes, such actions imply that “spreading information that can damage the health and moral development of underage children, and make them believe that both traditional and gay relationships are normal.”

St. Petersburg’s LGBT community attempted to protest against the scandalous law, but the rally was quickly dispersed by the police. One of the protesters was arrested.

The northern capital is not the only Russian city to show a particular dislike for the LGBT movement.

Police in the Kaliningrad Region recently mistook a marathon race for a Gay Pride parade. Several athletes gathered in the town center of Sovetsk on Saturday for the run, but were approached by police, who detained some of them, including teenagers.

Police later explained they had been falsely tipped off about a planned but illegal Gay Pride march in the town.

In Moscow, gay activists have been unsuccessfully applying for permission to hold a pride parade for several years – with former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov branding them "satanic" on one occasion.

With Luzhkov replaced by Sergey Sobyanin, the LGBT community hoped for change, but the new mayor deemed such events in the capital to be “unnecessary.”

The bans have always been warmly supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, with its officials supporting what they say is the authorities' right to ban any propaganda based on its potential moral damage to the people.

In July 2011, Russia paid 30,000 euros in compensation to gay activists over its decision to ban so-called pride marches. The fine was issued by the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that the decision to repeatedly ban gay pride parades in 2006, 2007 and 2008 was unlawful.

The European ruling, however, did not help: the last attempted gay pride effort was dispersed by police in Moscow in May of 2011. More than 60 people, both supporters of LGBT rights and their opponents, were detained.