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December 08, 2014

How to Stop Russia from Exporting Homophobia

Overview

Russia's Brand of Legislative Homophobia

In June 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law outlawing propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations,” thus enacting a federal ban that violates the constitutionally guaranteed rights of a community he is sworn to protect. Twenty years after decriminalization of homosexuality, the propaganda law marks a significant regression in terms of human rights for Russia and a disappointing contribution to an environment of discrimination and prejudice for the Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

The law is based on regional legislation first implemented in Ryazan in 2006 before being enacted into law in 11 separate regions in 2011. A federal law banning “homosexual propaganda” was unsuccessfully pursued by members of the Russian Duma multiple times, the first instance of which occurred in 2004. The current enacted law purportedly is designed to protect minors, but has largely been implemented in a way that does not take into account whether any minors actually were exposed to the information or whether it was pitched towards minors. A recent Constitutional Court case did address this issue, finding the law constitutional provided it was actually limited to the protection of minors. As stated, the law prohibits the portrayal of LGBT relationships as equal to heterosexual relationships or in a positive light in a public manner.

Proponents of the law have deemed the international criticism as an overreaction, citing the low number of prosecutions under it, but the mere existence of the law provides an air of legitimacy for homophobic rhetoric and a cultural tolerance for hate crimes against the LGBT community. In practice, the law now levies administrative sanctions and fines against those found to have violated the law. Foreign citizens found in violation of the law face a harsher sentence of up to 15 days of detention and possible deportation.

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