The City Hall of St. Petersburg in Russia on Sunday announced that the city's governor signed into law a bill that would impose fines against people convicted of promoting homosexuality, including gays or lesbians who are open about their sexuality. Governor Georgy Poltavchenko signed the bill on Wednesday [RFE/RL report] despite complaints that it discriminated against the gay community. The bill, which was passed by lawmakers [Moscow Times report] at the end of February, bans gay pride parades, and any activity in public which could influence children and that could be viewed as promoting a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) lifestyle. Individuals convicted under the law would be subject to fines between 3,000 and 5,000 rubles ($100-$160 USD) [Moscow Times report], while organizations could be fined up to 50,000 rubles for "promoting" homosexuality. The bill was introduced in November 2011 [JURIST report], and sponsors of the claim it is necessary because homosexual propaganda "threatens" Russia [RIA Novosti report] and that "sexual deviation" negatively impacts Russian children. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on Poltavchenko to veto the legislation [news release], which they called a "discriminatory and dangerous initiative." According to legal scholars, the Russian Constitution [text] may allow limitations to be placed on the rights of homosexuals due to the constitutional ability to balance the interests of society and limit rights of a social group if they infringe upon the rights of another social group. Enforcement of the law will begin 10 days after the date of signing.
Russia has long struggled with the acceptance of homosexuality. In 2008, several Russian gay rights activists were arrested [JURIST report] by police in Moscow for holding events commemorating the 1993 law that put an end to government prosecution for homosexual activity in Russia. It was the third consecutive year Moscow Pride held events around the city to elude officials attempting to enforce a local ban on gay pride parades [JURIST report] that was put in place due to fears of violence. The UN has attempted to pass resolutions aimed at ending sexuality discrimination worldwide, but has faced difficulty passing resolutions on gay rights issues. Last year, UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed the "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" resolution [text, PDF], which is the first resolution to call for an end to sexuality discrimination worldwide [JURIST report]. In 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [JURIST report]. A year earlier, the UN passed a gay rights declaration [JURIST report], which called on states to end criminalization and persecution of homosexuals. This declaration was recalled by the new resolution. Although 85 countries signed the declaration [US Ambassador statement], 57 countries, primarily in Africa and the Middle East, signed an opposing statement. In 2008, the UN General Assembly [official website] was divided over the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality [JURIST report] as 66 nations signed a statement calling for decriminalization, and nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement.