Kaleidoscope Diversity Trust and the FCO today urged the authorities in Russia’s second largest city not to enact a homophobic bill, saying it would threaten freedom of expression and fuel discrimination against the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBT) community.
Britain is urging that the new law isn’t put into effect.
Kaleidoscope obtained this response from a spokesman for the British Foreign Office, who said:
‘We, along with EU colleagues, have already expressed concern to the St Petersburg legislature and the Russian MFA, that this legislation is incompatible with Council of Europe guidelines on preventing discrimination against LGBT people. We hope that it will be reconsidered before it is passed into law by the Governor, and that the important activities of Russian LGBT organisations will not be hampered in the future.’
The bill, which St Petersburg’s city assembly passed nearly unanimously today, would effectively ban public events by LGBT people and organisations under the pretext of protecting minors. Local news sources say 29 city legislators voted for the bill, five voted against and one abstained.
The redrafted bill now allows the authorities to impose fines of up to 5,000 rubles (£107) on individuals and up to 500,000 (£10,700) on businesses for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.”
Local LGBT rights activists have blasted the law, saying it will provide legal cover for banning any of their actions, including the distribution of information leaflets or even actions against homophobia.
Under the measure, freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT groups would be prohibited anywhere children might be present. This would rule out nearly all public events carried out by or on behalf of LGBT people and organisations. The publication of anything relating to LGBT rights or providing assistance or advice – including informative leaflets as well as publications in the media and on the internet – would also be severely curtailed.
Although consensual same-sex activity was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, LGBT people still face widespread discrimination and violence.
LGBT activists’ attempts to organise Pride marches, cultural festivals and other events in major cities, including St Petersburg, have frequently been met with official red tape and violence from anti-gay groups, among them people associating themselves with the Orthodox Church. Violent attacks against LGBTI activists often go unpunished.