(Moscow) –Russia’s parliament should reject a proposed bill that would violate Russians’ freedom of expression and discriminate against and stigmatize Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
On December 19, 2012, the Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, is scheduled to discuss draft provisions that would impose fines on individuals, government officials, and organizations that engage in “promoting” homosexuality to anyone under the age of 18. The discussion comes less than two months after the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that a similar measure adopted by a regional Russian legislature violated freedom of expression and was discriminatory, and a week after Prime Minister Dmitry A. Medvedev said he was against such laws and that “not all relations between people can be regulated by law.”
“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 organizations 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.
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.
The UN Human Rights Committee ruled in October that a measure banning “homosexual propaganda” adopted by the Ryazan regional legislature was “ambiguous and discriminatory.” The ruling found that Russia violated the rights of an LGBT activist, Irina Fedotova, to freedom of expression and protection from discrimination by prosecuting her under the Ryazan law. Police in Ryazan had detained Fedotova briefly in 2009 for displaying posters that read “Homosexuality is normal” and “I am proud of my homosexuality” near a secondary school. She was charged with “propaganda for homosexuality … among minors” for which a court fined her 1,500 rubles (US$30).
The committee ordered Russia to reimburse Fedotova for the fine and her legal expenses and to pay her additional compensation. The committee also reminded Russia of its obligation “to prevent similar violations in the future and