Proposed Law in Russia Would Make It Illegal to Come Out
In an attempt to expand upon the 2013 Russian law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors," two elected officials recently announced that they are seeking to criminalize the act of coming out. The proposed amendment to the Russian Administrative Code would make "public expression of non-traditional sexual relations" a violation punishable by a fine. The penalty is more severe—up to 15 days in jail—if the “offense” takes place in an educational or governmental setting.
Ivan Nikitchuk and Nikolay Arefyev, the amendment’s backers, couch their rhetoric in a commitment to preserving the moral fabric of the nation—but homophobia is clearly the underlying motive:
"I believe that the problem we have raised is one of the most pressing and topical issues as it addresses the social ills of our society and deals with the moral education of the next generation... In Athens during the classical period homosexuals had to report their vice to the people’s assembly and got stripped of their civil rights. Those who tried to conceal it were either exiled or executed," reads the politicians’ statement attached to the bill.
Nikitchuk and Arefeyev's grasp on history notwithstanding, it remains to be seen whether the bill will gain momentum in the Duma. Vitaly Milonov, the main proponent of the 2013 law, criticized the new bill’s usefulness, while prominent human rights attorney Maria Bast considers the proposal to be a nonstarter in light of current Russian efforts to establish better relations with the European Union. But the bill nonetheless sends a chilling message to the country’s already marginalized LGBT community.
Russian MPs might better serve their nation by addressing real concerns, such as corruption, a degrading infrastructure, and an economic tailspin—not by conjuring up homophobic fables.
To learn more about Human Rights First's efforts to halt the spread of Russian-style propaganda laws, read our blueprint How to Stop Russia from Exporting Homophobia.