What’s Wrong With the New Ban on “LGBT+ Propoganda”

On June 7, the Legislative Assembly of Sevastopol submitted to the State Duma of Russia a draft Federal Law No. 138 702−8 “On Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation.” The amendments will affect the so-called law on “propaganda of homosexuality.” The authors of the bill propose to replace the article of the Administrative Code 6.21 with 6.37.

We’ve asked Sphere Foundation lawyers Vyacheslav Samonov and Ekaterina Dikovskaya to explain what this means.

What is the difference?

The proposed article repeats Article 6.21 in its main composition, but with one difference — the information does not necessarily have to be directed at minors. That is, “propaganda” will also be punished when it comes to adult citizens.

Thus, virtually any uncritical mention of LGBT+ will be penalized.

What will be the punishment for “propaganda”?

  • If the bill is adopted, an individual will receive a 40,000-50,000 ruble fine for any “propaganda.” A legal entity could be fined from 1 to 5 million rubles.
  • The same actions — “propaganda” — committed toward minors would be punished more severely: for citizens, from 50,000 to 100,000 rubles. For legal entities, 5 million rubles, or administrative suspension of activity for up to 3 months.
  • If “propaganda” is in the media or the Internet, the fine for an individual will be from 100,000 to 500,000 rubles. For a legal entity, up to 10 million rubles or suspension of activity for up to 3 months.
  • If a foreigner or a stateless person is suspected of “propaganda,” they will be deported from Russia.

Why did the deputies decide to toughen the punishment?

According to legislators, these changes look like a logical continuation of the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation on the preservation of traditional family values.

Repeating the thesis about the need to protect values, the initiators of the bill believe that the Russian authorities have the right to independently resolve issues of legislative regulation, including interpersonal and sexual relations. In other words, we are no longer talking about “propaganda,” but about state interference in interpersonal relations, which the initiators of the bill do not hide.

In the text of the explanatory note, the authors highlight the inadmissibility of propaganda or agitation that incites social, racial, national, or religious hatred and enmity. According to the initiators, the legislator should strive to prevent manifestations of aggression, which concerns the denial of constitutionally significant moral values or neglect of them.

What’s wrong with the amendments?

The authors believe that neither the Russian Constitution nor international obligations keep Russia from passing laws prohibiting such propaganda. This statement is obviously false, because in 2012 the UN Human Rights Committee recognized the prohibition of “propaganda” of non-traditional sexual relations as a violation of Paragraph 2 of Article 19 in conjunction with Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly spoken about the inadmissibility of such discriminatory legislation in its numerous rulings against Russia.

Moreover, the Constitution of the Russian Federation itself directly asserts ideological diversity and the inadmissibility of establishing a state or mandatory ideology. In reality, this is exactly what the authors of the bill are trying to do in the field of interpersonal relations.

How would this affect Russian LGBT+ activists?

Given the current interpretation of the concept of “propaganda,” in the case of amendments to the Administrative Code getting passed, it will be impossible to hold public actions and events. Also, however, all the agencies speaking out on the topic of LGBT+ right will be banned.

Why has the bill appeared now?

Over the past 2 months, Russia has been actively severing ties with many international institutions and refusing to fulfill its previous obligations, including in the field of human rights protection. Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe and the recently adopted law on the refusal to enforce the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are on par with this initiative.

Russia has been sabotaging the execution of the ECHR decisions for many years, in which the latter recognized the authorities’ attitude towards LGBT+ people in Russia as discriminatory and violating human rights.

If Russia’s earlier position was a compromise and the persecution was not open and official, then in the context of recent events, the authorities decided that their hands were untied and it was possible to begin the persecution of LGBT+ people in Russia, openly and in full force, along with the opposition, dissidents and other groups of people who are inconvenient to the authorities.

Response from the Sphere Team

The state has now openly declared that being LGBT+ is a foreign, “Western” trend. That is why it is being actively demonized. Because of this ideological confrontation, real people suffer.

We declare that Russian LGBT+ people are citizens of their country, the same as any other citizen. We are not some product of “Western influence.” We have always been here and we are who we are. This bill erases an entire group of people.

If earlier queer people felt that they should become as invisible as possible because of the lack of state protection, this legislation has now completely denied them of their existence.

Thank you for reading!

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