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UN urges Russia lawmakers to reject bill banning promotion of homosexuality

A group of UN human rights experts on Friday urged [press release] Russian lawmakers to reject proposed legislation banning the dissemination of homosexual "propaganda" to minors. Independent experts joined with UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, human rights defense, cultural rights and the right to health to caution legislators in the Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] that the proposed law has the potential to subvert fundamental human rights to freedom of expression by specifically targeting and restricting the activity of "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people." Experts portend that the bill's broad scope will lead to judicial constructions that "unduly restrict" and stigmatize the efforts of those advocating for LGBT rights in an already "difficult environment." Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover [official website], specifically challenged the bill's inclusion of children in asserting that broad constructions may extend to programs promoting sexual and reproductive health among the LGBT community and may prevent children from accessing information that could help to "safeguard" mental and physical health. Lawmakers approved the first reading [JURIST report] of the bill in January, but it is slated to go before lawmakers for two more readings before a final vote. UN experts urged lawmakers to reject the bill while "the window is still open."

Russian lawmakers introduced the bill [JURIST report] in March. The proposed legislation calls for fines 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.'" Earlier that month, the City Hall of St. Petersburg in Russia announced that the city's governor signed into law [JURIST report] a similar bill that would impose 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 2011 [JURIST report], and sponsors claim it is necessary because homosexual propaganda "threatens" Russia and "sexual deviation" negatively impacts Russian children. Several advocacy groups has challenged the bills as discriminatory. In January, Human Rights Watch called on authorities to veto the Moscow legislation [JURIST report], which they called a "discriminatory and dangerous initiative." However, Russian legal scholars have asserted that the Russian Constitution 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.

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