For Immediate Release: September 18, 2013
New York City - Human Rights First urges the Russian State Duma to reject a bill that would allow the government to remove children from the custody of parents suspected of “nontraditional sexual relations.” The proposal will be discussed by the Committee on Family, Women, and Children Affairs tomorrow.
“The proposed bill attempts to build on the legal swampland that was created when the first anti-‘propaganda’ bill was enacted in Russia earlier this year,” said Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov. “While the anti-‘propaganda’ bill was discriminatory and ambiguous, its impact is focused on limiting freedoms of speech, assembly, and association of LGBT Russians. The newly-proposed amendments to the family code perpetuate the discrimination and stigmatization of gay Russians and are an attack on families in general because they empower the government to strip individuals of parental rights for ambiguously-defined noncriminal behavior.”
Earlier this month State Duma Deputy Aleksey Zhuravlev submitted bill № 338740-6, which would expand Russia’s Family Code article 69 to include “permitting nontraditional sexual relations” among the grounds for depriving an individual of custody over his or her children. In the explanatory note, Zhuravlev cited the recently-passed ban on the “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relations to minors and urged the government to enforce this concept not just in the public domain but in families as well. The explanatory note attached to the bill concluded with a call to include “the fact of nontraditional sexual orientation of both or one of parents” among the reasons to remove children from parental custody. Duma Committee members have expressed skepticism about the proposed bill.
“This year Russian parliamentarians have proven to be capable of adopting laws that undermine the constitution, Russia’s international commitments, and common sense—in fact, the Family, Women, and Children Committee was the main champion of the federal anti-‘propaganda’ ban,” added Grekov. “The amendment proposed by Zhuravlev does not distinguish between engaging and approving of or allowing for nontraditional sexual relations—and, of course, no Russian judge has yet defined what such relations are and how they can be proven in a court of law.”
In August, Human Rights First released a report noting that the Russian assault on LGBT rights is part of a broader crackdown on dissent that has its roots in the massive antigovernment protests in 2011. Since then, Russian President Putin has used repressive laws and law enforcement to try to weaken civil society, including government critics, human rights activists, independent journalists, whistle blowers, and now LGBT persons. The report offered a closer look at the enacted anti-“propaganda” law and its regional and federal precursors, noting the Kremlin’s fervent opposition to such legislative efforts in 2003, 2004, and 2006. Back then, the ambiguous language of the “propaganda” bills was condemned by the Prime Minister’s Office as contradictory to Russia’s Constitution and criminal code and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Human Rights First notes that President Obama should follow up on his meeting with LGBT activists in St. Petersburg during the G-20 Summit and continue to press the Russian government on these discriminatory laws. The administration should seek clarification on how the anti-“propaganda” law will be used, by highlighting the Russian government’s previous opposition to such a law, and lead a multilateral coalition to oppose discrimination and violence against LGBT people in Russia and elsewhere.
For more information or to speak with Grekov, contact Brenda Bowser Soder at BowserSoderB@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.