Short biography of the freedom that never happened.
“Let’s answer some very simple questions for ourselves. I now want to return to what I said, I want to address all the citizens of the country — not only to those colleagues who are in the hall — to all the citizens of Russia: do we want to have, here, in our country, in Russia, parent number one, number two, number three instead of mom and dad — have they gone made out there? Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on children in our schools from the primary grades? To be drummed into them that there are various supposed genders besides women and men, and to be offered a sex change operation? Do we want all this for our country and our children? For us, all this is unacceptable, we have a different future, our own future.”
What is it?
The Russian federal law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating a Denial of Traditional Family Values”, also known as the “gay propaganda” or “anti-gay propaganda” law, was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 30th June 2013 and came into effect on 29th June 2013. The law aims to prohibit the dissemination of information that is considered to promote non-traditional sexual relationships, particularly, but not solely, among minors.
In 2022, changes regarding the ban on gay propaganda were made to five laws: on information, on the media, about the state support of cinematography, on advertising, and on the protection of children from information that is harmful to their health and development. Therefore, initially aimed at minors, the law was expanded towards all ages. All the above laws and amendments are referred to in media as gay propaganda law or anti-gay law, which now in fact affects not just children, but almost any Russian citizen.
The new amendments to the law prohibit propaganda of gender transition, “non-traditional sexual relations and/or preferences” along with paedophilia, suggesting they are of the similar nature.
The law aims to prevent spreading “the distorted ideas about the equal social value of traditional and non-traditional [LGBT] sexual relationships”. It imposes fines on individuals, organisations, and businesses found guilty of violating the law, with higher fines for organisations and businesses.
Additionally, in July 2020, Russia approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, effectively banning same-sex marriage at the constitutional level.
Effects and applications
Fines: Up to 400,000 rubles ($6,370) for “LGBT propaganda” and up to 200,000 rubles ($3,185) for “demonstrations of LGBT and information that encourages a change of gender among teenagers.” These fines rise to up to 5 million rubles ($80,000) and 4 million rubles ($64,000) respectively for legal entities.
Promotion of discrimination: The law reinforces discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals by promoting a narrow and discriminatory view of gender and sexuality. It perpetuates harmful stereotypes, stigmatises LGBTQ+ individuals, and contributes to a hostile environment where discrimination, harassment, and violence against them are normalised.
Restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly: The law restricts freedom of expression and assembly for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies, making it difficult for them to advocate for their rights, access information, and express themselves. It hinders LGBTQ+ individuals from organising public events or demonstrations, sharing information about LGBTQ+ rights, or expressing their sexual orientation or gender identity openly.
Violation of privacy and autonomy: The law invades the privacy and autonomy of LGBTQ+ individuals by criminalising the expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in the presence of minors. It can lead to intrusive investigations, arrests, fines, and even imprisonment for simply being open about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Impact on healthcare: The law can hinder LGBTQ+ individuals’ access to healthcare, including critical services such as HIV prevention and treatment, mental health support, and gender-affirming medical care. It contributes to a culture of discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in healthcare settings and may discourage them from seeking appropriate care due to fear of discrimination or legal repercussions.
Marginalisation and exclusion: The law further marginalised LGBTQ+ individuals in Russia, creating a social environment where they face discrimination, harassment, and violence in their daily lives. It results in social exclusion, loss of employment, housing discrimination, and limited access to public services, further impeding their human rights and well-being.
Gay rights in Chechnya have been particularly concerning. Chechen authorities have been reported to carry out systemic and brutal persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals, including arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial killings. These actions have been widely condemned by international human rights organisations, but the Russian government has been criticised for not taking effective measures to address the situation.
The implementation and enforcement of the law have led to various court cases and persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals and organisations in Russia. Some specific examples of court cases related to the gay propaganda law include:
Nikolay Bayev: In 2013, Nikolay Bayev and several other activists were fined for organising a public event in support of LGBTQ+ rights. They challenged the law in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that it violated their rights to freedom of expression and discrimination. In 2017, the ECHR ruled that the law was discriminatory and violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Yet, the law has not been changed.
Maksim Pankratov: In 2014, Maksim Pankratov, a gay rights activist, was fined for posting photos of same-sex couples with their children on a social media page that he managed. He challenged the law in the ECHR, arguing that it violated his rights to freedom of expression and discrimination. In 2018, the ECHR ruled that the law was discriminatory and violated his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Yelena Grigoryeva: Yelena Grigoryeva, a prominent LGBTQ+ activist in Russia, was brutally murdered in July 2019 in St. Petersburg. She had been receiving death threats for her activism and had reported them to the police prior to her murder, but no action was taken to protect her.
Maxim Lapunov: In 2017, Maxim Lapunov became the first person to publicly come forward and report being detained and tortured in Chechnya because of his sexual orientation. His case shed light on the widespread anti-LGBTQ+ persecution in Chechnya and the failure of Russian authorities to address the issue.
“Gay Purge” in Chechnya: In 2017, reports emerged of a state-sponsored campaign of violence and persecution against LGBTQ+ individuals in Chechnya. Many individuals were arbitrarily detained, tortured, and even killed because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. Despite international condemnation, the Russian government has failed to hold those responsible accountable.
You can also read some interviews of the real people, affected by this law:
According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Levada Centre, a respected independent polling organisation in Russia, 60% of Russians hold a negative attitude towards homosexuality. Since the introduction of the law, the numbers have risen dramatically.
Additionally, a 2021 report by ILGA-Europe, a leading LGBTQ+ rights organisation, ranked Russia as one of the least LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Europe, citing the impact of the gay propaganda law and other discriminatory measures.
To learn more:
Gender violence, rooted in power imbalance, spreads through Russia, echoing in Ukraine conflict. Cultural and structural factors fuel a cycle of abuse, silencing victims. Recognising its link to authoritarian rule offers insights into systemic oppression, urging solidarity for change.
On July 14 2023, Russia passed a bill prohibiting transgender transition and restricting the rights of transgender people in Russia. How does this law work?
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