Russia looks to criminalize being gay, bisexual or lesbian

Published: December 27, 2011

CURRENT WORLD AFFAIRS QUESTION: What do Russia, Uganda and Nigeria have in common? Other than the fact that all three are oil-producing countries (albeit Uganda as a fledgling oil producer), they are all involved in creating legislation banning homosexuality in one way or another.

While Sharia law courts in northern Nigeria have already sentenced people to death for homosexuality, Uganda has passed laws that would make homosexuality punishable by death. Meanwhile, Russia, though not quite so extreme, is a country where moves are afoot to ban any reference to homosexuality as unacceptable “propaganda.” The move comes from the highest level of the federal government – the Russian deputy prime minister, no less.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak called for banning any “propaganda” of non-traditional sexual relationships at the federal level, and at a press conference Dec. 2 in St. Petersburg said that the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations “is a disgusting thing,” promising consideration of “this topic at the federal level.”

The bill about administrative responsibility for “propaganda” of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors passed in the first hearing in St. Petersburg City Parliament Nov. 16 where the St. Petersburg governor, Georgy Poltavchenko, supported Kozak, saying that if the bill passes, “it will serve the public morals.”

However, Polina Savchenko, general manager of the Russian LGBT organization Coming Out, thinks passage of the bill is quite likely. “Many politicians are willing to use homophobic attitudes spread in the society to attract the electorate, including during the coming presidential elections,” said Savchenko. “Some of the regional and federal officials have already made statements claiming that this law is necessary in Russia.”

The implications of the bill for gays, bisexuals and lesbians in Russia is considerable says Igor Kochetkov, chairperson of the Russian LGBT Network. “First of all millions of people feel humiliated by the very discussion of this law. In case it is adopted, any LGBT activist will be subject to administrative charges for dissemination of information about homosexuality, and the very functioning of the LGBT Network will be at risk. The possibilities of living an openly gay life will also be further limited.”

The bill will also have implications for ordinary Russian citizens. Says Kochetkov, “They will not have access to information that they need to be able to accept LGBT people. The grounds for conflicts and phobias in society will therefore be still in place.”

Adds Savchenko, “Another important implication is that homophobic bullying at schools will be left unaddressed, and many more teenagers will be likely to commit suicide.”

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