Wednesday 21 February 2018

Russia passes anti-gay regulations

Gay rights activists clash with opponents outside parliament
Gay rights activists clash with opponents outside parliament

A bill attacking Russia's gay community and banning the distribution of information about homosexuality to children has been overwhelmingly approved by the lower house of parliament.

More than two dozen protesters were attacked by anti-gay activists and then detained by police, hours before the State Duma approved the Kremlin-backed legislation in a 436-0 vote.

The bill banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" still needs to be passed by the appointed upper house and signed into law by president Vladimir Putin, but neither step is in doubt.

The measure is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church see as corrupting Russian youth and contributing to the protests against Mr Putin's rule.

The only parliament member to abstain was Ilya Ponomaryov, who has supported the protest movement to the annoyance of the leadership of his pro-Kremlin party.

Before the vote, gay rights activists attempted to hold a "kissing rally" outside the State Duma, located across the street from Red Square in central Moscow, but they were attacked by hundreds of Orthodox Christian activists and members of pro-Kremlin youth groups. The mostly burly young men with closely cropped hair pelted them with eggs while shouting obscenities and homophobic slurs.

Riot police moved in, detaining more than two dozen protesters, almost all of them gay rights activists. Some who were not detained were beaten by masked men on a central street about a mile away.

The legislation will impose hefty fines for providing information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community to minors or holding gay pride rallies.

After the bill was given preliminary approval in January, politicians changed the wording of "homosexual propaganda" to "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," which backers of the bill defined as "relations not conducive to procreation."

Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains high. Russia also is considering banning citizens of countries that allow same-sex marriage from adopting Russian children.

Press Association

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