‘Homophobic’ Bill Attracts Protests
Published: November 16, 2011 (Issue # 1683)
SERGEY CHERNOV / SPT
An LGBT activist protesting the draft law on Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa on Tuesday.
LGBT activists and human rights organizations are protesting in St. Petersburg with petitions against what they say is a homophobic draft law proposed by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in an attempt to gather more votes from conservatives ahead of the Dec. 4 State Duma elections.
On Friday, the Legislative Assembly’s legislation committee introduced a draft amendment to the local law “On Administrative Offences in St. Petersburg” that would outlaw “public actions directed at promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism to minors” if approved by the Legislative Assembly.
According to the draft law, violators will be fined. The fines would be from 1,000 to 3,000 rubles (about $33 to $100) for individuals, 3,000 to 5,000 rubles ($100 to $160) for officials and 10,000 to 50,000 ($325 to $3,630) rubles for legal entities.
“The objective of this draft law is to protect morals as the foundation of a healthy society,” said Vitaly Milonov, chair of the legislative committee and a United Russia deputy, on the Legislative Assembly’s web site.
According to Milonov, the draft law is designed to assist parents and schools in opposing the “powerful showbiz industry that promotes immorality and permissiveness.”
Speaking Tuesday, Igor Kochetkov, director of the LGBT rights group Vykhod (Coming Out), drew attention to mistakes in the draft law, which misspells some key terms in Russian in its title.
“The total illiteracy of the definitions is striking, you can’t find such words in a dictionary, which shows that the authors were very much in a hurry,” he said.
“They didn’t even bother to show it to people who know Russian.”
Kochetkov said that the draft law “was introduced unexpectedly on Nov. 11, and they want its first hearing to be pretty soon — as early as on Nov. 16.”
“This indicates that they want it to pass before the elections — that it is a move in their election campaign, definitely. I think that if they fail to get it passed before the elections, it will not be of interest to them once the elections are over.”
On Tuesday, LGBT activists held a series of one-man demos, which do not require preliminary authorization under Russian law, in central St. Petersburg. Activists set up a scarecrow with a poster reading “Don’t let democracy slip away” and stood next to it, one by one, distributing leaflets.
Their posters read “I’m not a scarecrow! Don’t scare kids with me,” “Those under 18 aren’t allowed to look at me” and “Don’t take kids to the ballet — men wear pantyhose there.”
According to Coming Out, more than 1,000 residents have signed the petition against the draft law in person during the past three days, while more than 6,500 have signed it on the Internet.
In a statement, Coming Out said that if passed, the law would put restrictions on the activities of LGBT rights organizations.
“Consequently, any information campaigns directed at lowering xenophobia and preventing hate crimes based on homophobia would become impossible.”
Although Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, Ryazan and Arkhangelsk outlawed “promoting homosexuality” in the 2000s by passing laws similar to the United Russia bill in St. Petersburg.
Kochetkov described the laws as “unconstitutional,” saying they “limit rights and freedoms, while the constitution states clearly that rights and freedoms can be limited only by a federal law, rather than by regional ones.”
“If such a law is passed in St. Petersburg, we will go to the city court and will take it to the Supreme Court no matter what.”
The Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center asked the Legislative Assembly to reject the bill as “contradicting Russian and international legal norms” in a letter Tuesday.
“The passing [of the law] would lead to mass violations of human rights on the territory of St. Petersburg,” it said.
Coming Out’s activists said they would continue to protest and picket the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, when the draft law is due to be heard.