In Russia, which already condemned by human rights activists for its anti-LGBT policies, tough new laws for promoting “non-traditional” relationships are on the way. Previously, “gay propaganda” had to be kept away from children and teenagers; now, legislators intend to apply the restrictions to content aimed at all ages. LGBT activists fear that the new law will bring a new round of censorship and a potential increase in homophobic violence.
Two bills were recently submitted to Russia’s lower house of parliament and are due for their first reading on Oct. 25. It’s likely that both will be adopted next month – 390 out of 450 State Duma deputies are listed as co-authors of the bills. The initiatives propose fines for “LGBT propaganda” that targets all Russians — not just minors, as current law forbids. Fines will increase: 400,000 rubles ($6,488) for individuals, 800,000 ($13,000) for officials and up to 5 million rubles ($81,000) for organizations.
Moreover, the new laws would impose fines for so-called “pedophile propaganda” alongside existing fines for “gay propaganda.” There are also fines for “promoting gender realignment” among teenagers. Foreigners convicted under these laws face expulsion from the country.
The new bills also distinguish between “demonstrations” and “propaganda.” For example, according to Alexander Khinshteyn, head of the State Duma’s Information Policy Committee and the bills’ initiator, Vladimir Nabokov’s notorious novel “Lolita” — about the relationship between an adult man and a teenage girl — does not qualify as propaganda.
“None of the book’s readers would want to repeat the tragic fate of Humbert or Lolita herself,” he said. However, if a work depicts “non-traditional” relationships from an attractive or sympathetic viewpoint, this becomes propaganda. Khinshteyn did not explain exactly how to draw this particular line.
Deputies also want to restrict access to “gay propaganda” content in online cinemas. Services will need to introduce passcodes for adult customers as an additional measure to protect minors. Online cinema companies said they have no idea what more is expected from them, since most services already have active controls to prevent minors from viewing 18+ content.
Deputies say these new laws are needed because the fight against “non-traditional relationships” remains a vital issue for the country, despite the war in Ukraine.
“Today we are in fact fighting to save Russia from having parents one, two and three instead of Mom and Dad,” said Khinshteyn, echoing Putin’s widely repeated talking point that European families have replaced Mom and Dad with “Parent No. 1 and Parent No. 2.”
“Russia stands at the forefront of the protection and preservation of traditional values, while the West encourages a genuine LGBT revolution.”
LGBT activists fear that the proposed legislation will lead to stricter censorship and increased violence. Moreover, lawyers point out that Russia has still not clearly defined what it means by “gay propaganda.”
“In essence, we have an anti-scientific phenomenon which is made into the basis of a law that encourages hatred toward an entire group of people,” said Natalya Solovyova, head of the board of the Russian LGBT Network human rights organization.
Russia’s current laws only impose fines for displaying “gay propaganda” to minors. The country did not decriminalize homosexuality until 1993.
Why the world should care
Russia is a country that already has a high level of discrimination against its LGBT community. The new laws effectively ban any public mention of LGBT people, which clearly affects their status and safety.