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HRW to Russia: reject anti-gay rights bill

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Sunday called on the Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] to reject a proposed law [HRW report] that would fine any individuals or organizations, including government officials, who promote homosexuality to minors under the age of 18. The bill, which was passed after a first reading [JURIST report] on Friday by the lower chamber of parliament, would amend Russia's Code of Administrative Law Violations [text] and impose fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($160 USD) on individuals and 500,000 rubles ($16,000 USD) on organizations. HRW believes that the bill is not justified sufficiently because the European Court of Human Rights has ruled on multiple occasions that the desire to "protect" children from information about homosexuality is not actually in the best interests of children. HRW officials also worry that the bill "contributes to an atmosphere that makes violence against LGBT protesters seem acceptable." LGBT protesters gathered in at least six Russian cities to protest the bill before it was debated and were attacked in many of the cities. One LGBT activist said that he witnessed counter-protesters beating LGBT protesters and throwing snowballs, plastic bottles and cans of paint at them. He also said officers and officials who were present did nothing to stop the violence against them. To become a law, the bill must pass two more readings and be signed by President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian].

Laws aimed at discriminating against and denying rights to the LGBT community have caused controversies throughout the international community. On Friday, Poland rejected a law [JURIST report] that would have given unmarried couples, including gay couples who are not allowed to marry, the ability to register to receive certain legal rights available to married couples. In October, the Northern Ireland High Court [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a law that banned gay couples from adopting children. That same month, the UN warned Ukraine [JURIST report] that a proposed law similar to, but more harsh than, Russia's proposed "homosexual propaganda" law would violate human rights. The proposed Ukraine law would impose fines on anyone who "promotes homosexuality," regardless of whether their audience is minors or not.

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