Russian lawmakers move to expand anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

A new piece of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation was passed by the lower house of Russia’s legislature on Thursday, according to a statement from the State Duma. The bill would ban so-called “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” for both adults and minors, the State Duma said.

“The initiatives propose punishment for the promotion and justification of non-traditional sexual relations in the media, the Internet, literature and cinema,” the statement from the State Duma read, describing the imposition of intimidating fines against individuals, organizations, and businesses that the State deems as violating the new legislation. 

Non-Russian citizens would face expulsion from the country should they be found in violation of the law.

The bill was authored by Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin and unanimously adopted by leaders of all factions, as well as more than 300 deputies. “We have traditions, a conscience, an understanding that we need to think about children, families, the country, and preserve what our parents have passed on to us,” said Volodin, citing data that shows increased numbers of people who identify as LGBTQ+ in Europe and the U.S.

“We must do everything to protect our children and those who want to live a normal life. Everything else is sin, sodomy, darkness, and our country is fighting this,” he added. 

The bill, which has broad support, according to the BBC, still needs to pass the Federation Council — the upper chamber of Russia’s legislature — before being signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The new bill builds upon 2013 Russian legislation that banned the so-called “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to children specifically. The new bill now includes adults as well. Shortly before the State Duma approved the 2013 legislation in a 436-0 vote, people protesting the bill’s passing were attacked by those with anti-LGBTQ+ viewpoints before being detained by police.

Though Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, amendments to the Russian Constitution in 2020 banned LGBTQ+ unions in the country — an action that was declared a human rights violation by the European Court of Human Rights. Putin has even previously said that Russia must “cleanse” itself of homosexuality.

Amnesty International was quick to criticize the bill, saying that the organization was concerned the legislation could lead to the shutdown of NGOs, LGBTQ+ sites, and social media. Marie Struthers, the organization’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement, “In Russia’s new era of repression, state-sanctioned homophobia is about to be ramped up to a whole new level.”

“The new draft ‘gay propaganda’ law not only brazenly deprives LGBTI people of their right to freedom of expression and endorses their discrimination, but will likely also lead to an increase in violent attacks and other hate crimes against them,” Struthers added.

Struthers predicted that the bill will not only further isolate LGBTQ+ Russians from community and culture, but contribute to a deeply harmful existing precedent in the country. 

“From banning films and books with openly LGBTI characters to ostracizing LGBTI people, the passing of this new law will be yet another disaster for human rights.”

Russia has also been criticized in recent years for its treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya, whose mayor denounced homosexuality in 2017, stating “We don’t have those kinds of people here.” Chechen members of the LGBTQ+ community have accused police in the Russian republic of kidnapping and torture.

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Earlier this month, a Russian court fined social media giant TikTok for failing to delete LGBTQ+ material that it alleged violated its existing laws for minors, issuing a $50,000 penalty to the platform, according to The Associated Press.

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