13 Mar 2012

St Petersburg bans 'homosexual propaganda'

Twenty years after homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia, anti-gay legislation is making a rapid comeback, with St Petersburg becoming the latest city to ban "homosexual propaganda". The law, signed by St Petersburg's governor last week, came amid increasing calls by leading Russian politicians and Orthodox Church officials to bring anti-gay laws to the federal level. Dmitry Pershin, head of the Church's youth council, renewed those calls on Mondayafter praising the St Petersburg law for "helping to protect children from information manipulation by minorities that promote sodomy".

The law's content is vague – it criminalises "public action aimed at propagandising sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors". Those charged with breaking the law will be fined from 5,000 (£108) to 500,000 roubles.

gay rights russia

Gay rights activists say the law is part of a wider government initiative, supported by the strictly conservative Orthodox Church, to crack down on public protest, civic activity and the liberalisation of society.

"The tendency in Russia is toward limiting freedom of speech and freedom to gather, targeting any group that somehow stands up for its rights," said Yury Gavrikov, the head of Equality, one of several gay rights groups in St Petersburg. "No one knows how the law will work," Gavrikov said. "The main goal seems to be limiting the rights of those who engage in social activity. But in its widest sense, it can mean limiting exhibits, plays, film showings – cultural activities."

After Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma, St Petersburg is the fourth city to pass such a law. Its adoption in Russia's most European city and one with a relatively vibrant gay scene has sparked an international outcry. All Out, a global gay rights group, has called on people to avoid travelling to the city until the law is repealed.

The Guardian