Russian deputies adopted amendments on Thursday that considerably broaden the scope of a law banning LGBT + “propaganda”, in the midst of a conservative hardening of the Kremlin accompanying its military offensive in Ukraine. This new law, which is an expanded version of a much criticized 2013 text banning LGBT + “propaganda” among minors, now prohibits “promoting non-traditional sexual relations” to all audiences, in the media, on the Internet, in books and in movies.
Fear of increased repression against LGBT +
This broad scope, as well as the wide interpretation allowed by the vague concept of “promotion”, raises fears of increased repression towards LGBT+ communities in Russia, who already face strong discrimination. “Promoting non-traditional sexual relations is prohibited (…) A ban on the promotion of pedophilia and gender change has also been introduced,” the head of the lower house of parliament (Douma) said in a statement. Vyacheslav Volodin.
“The fines amount to 10 million rubles” (about 160,000 euros) for offenders, he added. For the text to become law, it must still be validated by the upper house of Parliament, the Council of the Federation, and signed by President Vladimir Putin, which constitutes formalities.
In the eyes of Dilia Gafourova, head of the NGO Sfera for the defense of the rights of LGBT + people, “the law is discriminatory by its nature, it is quite obvious”. She considers “alarming” the Russian state’s claims that “LGBT + people are a Western invention, the result of outside interference”, believing that this fuels their “stigma” in society.
The Kremlin, as a defender of “traditional” values
The adoption of this new law comes after years of repression against LGBT+ communities, with the Kremlin presenting itself as the defender of “traditional” values in the face of a West presented as decadent. In the context of the conflict in Ukraine, this law is also portrayed as a means of “defending” Russia against an assault by Western countries on the level of values. This law “will protect our children and the future of this country against the darkness spread by the United States and European countries. We have our own traditions and values,” Vyacheslav Volodin said Thursday.
Activist Dilia Gafourova calls on the Russian authorities not to use the LGBT+ community as an “instrument of ideological confrontation”. “We just exist, and there’s nothing bad about us and nothing that needs to be glossed over,” she says. “We cannot be deprived of our voice”.
A “new attempt at discrimination”
Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said he was “deeply” concerned about the toughening of the law on LGBT + in Russia, after a vote of the Duma on the text in first reading. The main Russian NGO for the defense of sexual minorities, LGBT-Set, for its part denounced on October 18 in this law a “new attempt to discriminate and attack the dignity of the LGBT community”.
In addition to LGBT+ people, this law is also of concern to film and literary actors, who fear a strengthening of already very strong censorship. The cult novel “Lolita”, by Vladimir Nabokov, could for example be banned. “The sale of goods containing prohibited information” will now be banned and “films that promote relationships (+ non-traditional +, editor’s note) will not receive a distribution certificate”, according to the Duma website.