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Russia: Federal bill banning 'gay propaganda' to be considered

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Russia: Federal bill banning 'gay propaganda' to be considered

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — With nine regions already prohibiting so-called propaganda of homosexuality, Russia's State Duma is now poised to consider a federal-level bill on Dec 19 that aims to entrench such a ban throughout the country, the Russian LGBT Network says.

Ryazan, Kostroma, St Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Arkhangelsk and four other regions have all passed anti-gay gag laws. Bucking the national trend, the Duma of the Moscow Region rejected a similar measure meant to make "non-traditional sexual orientation propaganda to minors" illegal.

"One year of application of such laws in the regions have shown that, in practice, they are used to persecute dissidents, not to protect the children," says Russian LGBT Network chairman Igor Kochetkov. "Under the pretext of protecting the family, the authors of the bill actually destroy it, identifying a family as 'biological union of a man and a woman.' In reality this 'farm' approach to people shows how some deputies look to us, their constituents."

In a statement from the network, Kochetkov says the law "lets off the leash for nationalistic and ultra-right organizations" and will cause the "increase of aggression towards the LGBT community."

"This is confirmed by a series of attacks against participants of peaceful events and meetings," Kochetkov continues, pointing to an attack on a St Petersburg exhibition of queer artists in March, as well as attacks on night clubs in Tyumen and in Moscow in August and October. 

"We would like to remind that Legislative assembly of Novosibirsk region submitted the draft federal law 'On Amendments to the Code of Russian Federation of Administrative Offences' which proposed a ban so-called 'propaganda of homosexualism,' to State Duma on March 28th, 2012," he adds, noting that the State Duma's legal department gave a negative opinion on the draft law.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) recently found Ryazan's anti-gay law, prohibiting “public actions aimed at propaganda of homosexuality among minors,” to be discriminatory and a violation of freedom of expression in the case of a queer rights activist convicted under the measure. In March 2009, Irina Fedotova displayed posters that declared “Homosexuality is normal” and “I am proud of my homosexuality” near a secondary school in Ryazan. She was arrested, convicted and ordered to pay a fine of 1,500 rubles.The UN committee found Russia had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which it is a signatory, in the areas of freedom of expression and discrimination.

An impatient judge also acquitted pop star Madonna of "brutally violating" St Petersburg's anti-gay gag law following a concert tour in which she spoke out against the measure, handed out pink wristbands and urged the crowd to show support for queers.

The city of Milan also nixed a 45-year agreement to hold "sister city" status with St Petersburg, in protest against its law, The Guardian reports.

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