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Russia punishes ‘promoting’ LGBTQ relationships with new legislation

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The lower house of Russia’s parliament has passed the third and final reading of a bill banning the promotion of “LGBT propaganda” to children, building on a previous law passed in 2013.

According to the latest legislative package, any attempt to promote homosexuality – including in films, books or advertisements – can lead to a large fine.

The bill aims to ban Russians from promoting or “praising” same-sex relationships, as well as sex reassignment surgery, or suggesting that it is “normal.”

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Citizens who promote what the State Duma calls “the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” risk a fine of up to 400,000 rubles ($6,600), while organizations can risk 5 million rubles ($82,100). Foreign citizens, meanwhile, can face 15 days of arrest and deportation from the country.

Rights activists say the new legislation is an attempt to further suppress sexual minorities in Russia, who already face enormous challenges in a conservative society that has traditionally prevented gay pride marches and targeting LGBTQ rights activists with impunity.

“This is a law that prohibits the representation of a large part of society,” Russian political activist Lucy Shtein said. “Choosing the visibility of LGBTQ+ people does not affect the number of such people in any way, but only causes more suffering, forcing them to hide and hate themselves.”

Shtein said the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made LGBTQ people more vulnerable, as it is now much more difficult to evacuate Russian citizens who have come under fire from authorities. Following the mobilization of Russia and the travel restrictions imposed on Russian citizens by foreign countries in the aftermath of the invasion, freedom of movement and access to visas has become much more difficult for Russians.

Over the past year, the human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated dramatically, and the new legislation is “another nail in the coffin,” Shtein said.

“This war has shown that for this government every life is expendable and that their oppression particularly affects communities already vulnerable to the war, including the LGBT community,” Shtein said.

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LGBTQ rights have become something of a scapegoat in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, with many pundits associating them with Western-promoted, “anti-Russian” values. Legislators claim they are defending morality in the face of such “decadent” values.

“LGBT [rights] today are a part of hybrid warfare, and in this hybrid warfare we must protect our values, our society and our children,” one of the architects of the bill, Alexander Khinstein, said last month.

The bill will now pass to Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, before being signed into law by Putin.

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