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Russia lawmakers introduce bill banning promotion of homosexuality

The Russian lower house of Parliament, the State Duma [website], will consider a controversial bill introduced by lawmakers on Thursday that bans the spread of "homosexual propaganda" to minors. The bill calls for fines [AP report] of up to 500,000 rubles (USD $16,500) for promoting the homosexual lifestyle and appears to be aimed at media outlets which lawmakers blame for "promoting gay lifestyles as 'normal behavior.'" The bill is similar to a bill signed into law [JURIST report] early this month in St. Petersburg that imposes fines against people convicted of promoting homosexuality, including gays or lesbians who are open about their sexuality. The St. Petersburg bill was introduced in November [JURIST report], and sponsors 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 Governor Georgy Poltavchenko to veto the St. Petersburg legislation [news release], which they called a "discriminatory and dangerous initiative." The new bill also calls for fines of up to 1 million rubles for promotion of pedophilia.

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 the 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] calling 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.

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