Spread of Russian-Style Anti-Propaganda Laws
The international LGBT community has watched in horror as Russia’s brand of discriminatory propaganda legislation has taken root outside its borders. The flagship piece of that legislation, the federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” has become a chief Russian export. Since the law went into effect, in June, 2013, legislators from Eastern Europe to Central Asia have begun to emulate the Russian Duma by introducing nearly identical versions of the law to their legislative bodies.
Updated June 4, 2015
In August 2013, Armenian authorities briefly introduced a law aimed at protecting Armenian family values from public promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships.” If passed, the law would have introduced fines of $4,000.00 against violators. Mere days after the introduction, officials removed the bill from consideration, insisting that international pressure played no part in its removal, and that it was shelved solely for its shortcomings.
In July 2013, the Belarusian parliament proposed a gay propaganda law in the name of protecting traditional family values. The Liberal Democratic Party claimed that “under the guise of protecting the rights of sexual minorities, is the promotion and advocacy of homosexuality, especially among minors, thus destroying the family and public morality.”
Initial reports suggested that the law would be introduced into the National Assembly in late 2014, thus far, however, it has not received consideration.
In May 2015, Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Court invalidated a bill entitled “On protection of children from information harmful to their health and development.” Modeled after Russia’s infamous law, the bill would have introduced a ban on the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientation.” Ostensibly withdrawn due to vague wording, the bill would have complicated a hopeful Olympic host site bid.
In May, 2014, Kyrgyz lawmakers again introduced legislation that would target freedoms of speech and assembly of LGBT persons and allies within the country. If passed the law would be significantly more severe than the Russian propaganda law that serves as its inspiration. Unlike the version signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013, the Kyrgyz bill would make all information regarding “nontraditional sexual relationships” illegal, whether in the presence of minors or not. Additionally, violations of the law could be punished with prison sentences up to one year in addition to fines. One year after its introduction, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice expressed an opinion that the law would violate the country’s ongoing human rights commitments. The bill nevertheless remains active in the legislative process, thus far passing the first of three parliamentary readings.
In November 2013, Latvia’s Central Election Commission allowed anti-LGBT groups to begin collecting signatures for a referendum introducing a measure banning gay propaganda. The proponents of the referendum needed to collect 30,000 signatures to move forward in the legal process before a November 2014 deadline. Ultimately their efforts failed.
In March 2014, the Lithuanian Parliament deliberated upon amendments to the Code of Administrative Violations that would have levied harsh fines against participants in public acts that violate the constitutionally established value of family. The amendment would have augmented a 2010 law regarding protection of minors against detrimental effects of public information, by providing punitive guidelines to be used against individuals and organizations. Posters, placards, slogans, lyrics, and public speeches would have fallen under the vaguely-worded bill. Ultimately the amendment did not receive enough support for consideration, but the core law remains in effect.
In June 2013, Moldovan lawmakers passed a bill banning the promotion of “relationships other than those linked to marriage and the family.” Only four months later the clause was removed, despite strong objections from the Orthodox Church and officials in Moscow. The removal was likely due to a desire on the part of leadership to gain membership in the European Union. Some municipal laws, however, are still in effect.
Draft Law No. 1155, entitled “On the Prohibition of Propaganda of Homosexuality Aimed at Children” was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada in late 2012. Fortunately, the bill was removed from consideration in April, 2014. The law would have banned any information that could "do harm to physical and psychological health, moral and spiritual development of the child, as well as form misconceptions about the social equivalence of conventional and unconventional sexual relationships, and in the future to influence their choice of sexual orientation." If made into law, the bill would have banned positive or neutral statements made in print, on air, or as part of any public demonstration or action, and levied fines against first time offenders and mandated jail terms for repeat offenses.
Following a controversial annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and a disputed referendum, a transitional period of integration of Russian laws into Crimea was begun. As the federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” continues to be codified in Russian law, it is in effect in Crimea.