Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed a bill in its first reading on October 27 to ban the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations.” None of the 400 deputies objected.
president of the Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, from President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia (UR) party, said: “We must do everything to protect our children and those who want to live a normal life. Everything else is sin, sodomy, darkness, and our country fights against that.”
Linking the legislation to Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, he added: “We must protect our citizens and Russia from degradation and extinction, from darkness spread by the United States and European states.”
Volodin promised second reading amendments to eliminate remaining loopholes in the legislation.
If, as seems certain, the Federal Council (Senate) also supports the law and Putin ratifies it, the ban on promoting “non-traditional sexual relations or preferences” will be extended to all public media, including the Internet and print publications.
Providing information about “non-traditional lifestyles” and “rejection of family values” will then be crimes, with the same legal status as the production of child pornography, the promotion of violence, and the stirring up of racial, ethnic, and religious tensions. .
The bill generalizes 2013 legislation that makes providing information to children about being LGBTQI a crime, and now includes a provision that prohibits information that may “cause minors to want to change their sex.”
It provides for fines of between 50,000 rubles (1,265 Australian dollars) and 400,000 rubles (10,117 Australian dollars) for individuals and 5 million rubles (126,000 Australian dollars) for companies. Non-Russians who break the law face deportation.
The bill passed despite publishers’ warnings that many major books, including classics of Russian literature, could be banned for “promoting non-traditional relationships.”
Origins and justifications
The legislation merged two separate initiatives that were before the Duma into a single draft.
A text was supported by the “opposition” parties, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), the “social democratic” but socially conservative Just Russia and the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).
His sponsor was girl ostanina (KPRF), chairwoman of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children’s Affairs. The second draft was presented by the deputy of the UR Alexander Khinsteinhead of the information committee of the Duma.
According to an October 18 post on the Feminist Anti-War Resistance (FAS) Telegram channel, both drafts affected Russia’s media and information laws, but it was Khinshtein who proposed expanding the 2013 minors law to the entire population and adopt amendments on “protecting” children from “harmful information” about gender change.
After a cross-party task force did its work, the bill replaced “strange concepts” like “gender” and “LGBT” with the “clear and familiar concepts” of “sex” and “buggery” and addressed pedophilia and no”. -traditional relationships” as if they were the same thing.
FAS commented: “Obviously, the nostalgia for article 121 of the Soviet criminal code (on sodomy) is more acute than ever.”
With this measure, lawmakers continued to reverse minor gains made for LGBTQI rights in a country where homosexuality, decriminalized after the 1917 revolution, was recriminalized by Stalin in 1933 and remained a crime until 1993 and a “mental illness.” until 1999.
It follows the adoption in 2020 of a new constitution that defines marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman. When the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia in 2021 to accept same-sex marriage, it was told to stop meddling in Russia’s internal affairs.
Overcome Peppa Pig!
The defenders of the law did not hide their link to Russia’s war in Ukraine and their struggle for civilizational values with the “collective West”.
According to UP deputy Pyotr Tolstoy: “This is a battle we cannot lose, because the future of Russian civilization depends on it.”
for monarchist Konstantin MalofeevUR deputy and owner of the Tsargrad TV channel “it is here, in the denial of traditional family values, that the vanguard of this war is found.”
Russia’s failures on the Ukraine front are linked to the decline of morality: defeating “sodomy” and LGBTQI agents of the “hybrid war of the West” will thus contribute to military victory.
The “communist” Ostanina echoed the UP deputies: while minors were “protected” from LGBTQI influence by the 2013 law “the adult population now also needs protection. We need to protect people from this advancing ideological weapon. The war is happening on all fronts.”
In his Duma speech in support of the bill, Khinshtein said that Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine were there to protect traditional Christian values and that the “special operation” was taking place “not just on the battlefield, but also in the mind and soul of the people”.
On this front, the enemies to expel from the field are cartoons like South Park Y Peppa Pig. During his speech in the Duma, Khinshtein projected screenshots of these TV shows, claiming that they were part of a war “waged against our society.”
Damning evidence was the episode of Peppa Pig in which Penny the polar bear appears with two mothers.
Khinshtein’s message echoes that of Putin, during whose rule anti-gay outbursts have been a recurrent, even pathological, feature. For example, in a speech after the Russian Federation annexed four Ukrainian territories, the Russian president mocked “certain genders” and families with “father number one and father number two.”
The legislation also has the full support of the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to Patriarch Kirill, Russia’s war in Ukraine is a battle between those who support pro-Western gay pride events and those who reject them.
Win against the West?
However, Khinshtein took pains to make it clear that the bill is not intended to ban the LGBTQI community, only to ban the promotion of non-heterosexual behavior.
He told the media: “Our bill is not an act of censorship. We do not ban LGBT as a phenomenon. We do not put a ban on mentioning it, we just say that propaganda should be prohibited, that is, positive promotion, praise, that this is normal and maybe even better than traditional sexual relations.
Khinshtein’s is a defensive move intended to neutralize sympathy for Russia’s LGBTQI community, which has grown in strength and organization since homosexuality was no longer classified as a mental illness.
LGBTQ Network Spokesperson Natalia Solovyova saying France Media Agency the new law “would create a situation where no one can speak openly or positively about LGBTQ people,” making an increase in hate crimes inevitable.
He added, however, that ordinary Russians do not see the issue of sexual minorities as a priority, especially as daily life has become more difficult due to economic sanctions and international isolation.
Rather, the regime was abusing the rights of sexual minorities for “geopolitical gains. The LGBTQ community is seen as Western. So this is like a small victory against the West, even if, in reality, it’s nothing like that.”
the Human Rights Sphere Foundation, dedicated to the defense of LGTBQI rights and already threatened with a ban, has launched a “No to state homophobia” campaign against the bill. It is unlikely to succeed, as the community appears to have no friends in the Russian parliament.
FAS sums up the situation: “The situation for the queer community will be even more frightening and grim after the new LGBT propaganda laws are passed. Not only public activists, but all non-heterosexual and transgender people will be at risk of harassment by the authorities in case of ‘propaganda’”.
Lilya, one of the FAS coordinators, wrote on October 28 to her non-heterosexual subscribers: “We are witnessing the development of a new phase of state violence. The authorities are trying to ban any mention of the existence of LGBTQ people. The repression against any minority, against people who think or feel differently, is nothing new. An authoritarian regime needs internal enemies against which to face society. And now you and I have become such enemies.
“But I want to tell you: no matter what happens, no matter what cannibal laws are passed, no matter how hard they try to convince you that you are not worthy of existing, you are not alone! You are loved, worthy, and good enough. You are not a mistake. There is nothing wrong with you.
“I know this may be hard to believe right now and it will only get worse in the years to come, but eventually this terrible time will inevitably come to an end.”
[Dick Nichols is Green Left’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona.]