Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed into law a bill expanding the ban on so-called LGBTQ “propaganda” in Russiamaking it illegal for anyone to promote same-sex relationships or suggest that non-heterosexual orientations are “normal.”
The ban was approved by Putin a few days later a tough new “foreign agents” law came into force as the Kremlin cracks down on free speech and human rights as its military operation in Ukraine falters.
The new laws significantly expand the scope of a 2013 law which prohibited the dissemination of LGBTQ-related information to minors. The new iteration extends the ban on promoting such information to adults as well.
New laws make it illegal to promote or “praise” LGBTQ relationships, publicly express non-heterosexual orientations, or suggest they are “normal.”
The package of amendments signed by Putin includes harsher penalties for anyone who promotes “non-traditional sexual relationships and/or preferences”, as well as pedophilia and gender transition. According to the new law, it will be prohibited on the Internet, the media, books, audiovisual services, cinema and advertising.
Under the new law, individuals can be fined up to 400,000 rubles ($6,370) for “LGBT propaganda” and up to 200,000 rubles ($3,185) for “LGBT demonstrations and information that encourages gender change among adolescents.”
These fines amount to up to 5 million rubles ($80,000) and 4 million rubles ($64,000) respectively for legal persons.
The law was approved by Russia’s upper and lower houses in recent weeks.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2017 that the 2013 law is discriminatory, promotes homophobia and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court concluded that the law “did not serve any legitimate public interest” and rejected suggestions that public debate on LGBT issues could influence children to become homosexual or threaten public morals.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but homophobia and discrimination still abound. It is ranked 46th out of 49 European countries for LGBTQ+ inclusion by watchdog ILGA-Europe.
Speaking before Putin signed the bill on Monday, Tanya Lokshina, associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, said: “The 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ law was a blatant example of political homophobia, and the new bill amplifies that fact. in broader and harsher ways.”
But the expansion of the “LGBT propaganda” law is just the latest of many steps Putin’s government has taken in recent months to crush the last pockets of opposition, liberal values and free speech in Russia.
A new expanded version of the 2012 law on foreign agents came into force last week. While the original version required organizations that engaged in political activity and received funds from abroad to register as foreign agents and adhere to draconian rules and restrictions, the new law extends that requirement to anyone who has “received support and (or) is under foreign influence. .
In early March, just days after Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government adopted a law making it a criminal offense to spread what it called “deliberately false” information about the Russian military. The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison.