The Russian law that prohibits "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors has had wide-ranging and devastating effects on the LGBT community, according to a report released by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Friday.
To mark the law’s one-year-anniversary Monday, the LGBT rights group has collected numerous incidents showing the law’s consequences, including attacks on LGBT night clubs, discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace and an intensification of anti-LGBT rhetoric among Russian leaders.[READ: Political Statements at Sochi Olympics Made in Tiny Steps, Not a Giant Leap]
While only a limited number of Russians have been reported in the English press as having been found guilty of breaking the law, it has spurred numerous investigations resulting in teachers being fired,products being taken off the shelves, and even a crusade against a ninth-grade student who was turned into authorities after she told classmates she was a lesbian.
Overall, the report states, these investigations have produced a “chilling” effect on Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its advocates.
“The law is written incredibly vaguely. No one knows what it means to promote propaganda, so people feel like anything they do can be swept into that definition – or that lack of a definition in that broad term,” says Ty Cobb, director of global engagement for the Human Rights Campaign.
The survey found that in addition to the propaganda ban’s legal ramifications, the law has created a climate where crimes against LGBT people have increased while officials turn a blind eye. Cobb blames these crimes on the messages being put out by government officials and church leaders, also detailed in the report.
“When the rhetoric continues to create a tense situation where it looks like it’s OK to discriminate, it’s OK to harass, it’s OK to violently attack LGBT people, it isn’t surprising that groups collect themselves on social media and organize to actually go after LGBT people in a methodical way,” Cobb says.[ALSO: LGBT Groups Press Congress to Act on ENDA After Obama’s Executive Order]
The law has been regarded as a move by Vladimir Putin’s administration to align his government with the conservative Russian Orthodox Church while using anti-LGBT sentiment as a weapon against the West. White House national security adviser Susan Rice criticized Russia this week for a law she described as “pernicious.”
“With Russia trying to strengthen its sphere of influence, we’re seeing this rhetoric and lies about LGBT people becoming a wedge with former Soviet countries who are making the decision of whether they’re aligning themselves with Western Europe or with Russia,” Cobb says.
Legislation similar to Russia’s propaganda ban is under consideration in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet territory, and there has been talk of other anti-LGBT measures in Lithuania, Kazakhstan and elsewhere in the region.
Russian officials also have suggested other proposals aimed at the LGBT community, including the creation of a national morality police, a ban on gay clubs and a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Meanwhile, Putin told reporters this week that accusations Russia is anti-gay are “fictional.”
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