As LGBT History Month gets into full swing on the UEA campus, with a number of events aimed towards students of any sexual identity, a bill that would ban “homosexual propaganda” in Moscow has been passed through the Russian parliament’s lower house, the state Duma.

Russian police web

The bill would ban any public celebration of LGBT issues, such as LGBT History Month, in the capital. Pride festivals and providing information on homosexuality to those under the age of 18 would also be made illegal. Anyone found breaking these rules could be fined up to £10,000.

The bill will go through a further two readings before being presented to President Vladimir Putin to sign and become law.
There have been a number of rallies and protests over the bill throughout the last two weeks in Russia.

On 25 January, LGBT rights campaigners protested outside of the state Duma, but were assaulted by orthodox activists. Police shortly intervened, but reporters claim that the majority of those detained were the LGBT campaigners.

Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia continues to be a major issue within the country. According to the international news network Russia Today, an opinion poll conducted in Russia last spring found that 86% of the population were in support of the “homosexual propaganda” ban, despite the fact that only 6% of people claimed to have ever witnessed any.

The Washington Post reported that a heterosexual high school teacher in Russia recently lost his job due to his participation in the LGBT rights protests in Moscow.

Robert Bridge, an American political commentator for Russia Today, stated on their website that the proposed bill is a way for the country “to cushion its youth from a “western influence” that it condemns as far too liberal in outlook.”

He went on to say : “Russian legislators behind the bill say minors need to be protected from ‘homosexual propaganda’ because they are unable to evaluate the information critically”.

However, as one comment on Bridge’s article suggested, “If Russia wants to claim that it is not anti-gay, it needs to ban heterosexual propaganda too.”

Another comment stated that, “Gays in Russia cannot meet in private safely … Frequently the police raid gay bars to beat up the patrons.”

It appears that even with the protests over the anti-homosexual propaganda bill both in Russia and across the global LGBT community; most of the country considers homosexual acts to be immoral.

An executive for a government-run television network recently stated on a talk show that homosexuals shouldn’t be able to donate blood, sperm and organs for transplants, before saying that their hearts should be burned after death.

Last year the Levada-Center, a Russian non-governmental polling and sociological research organisation, found that roughly two-thirds of Russians viewed homosexuality as being “morally unacceptable and worth condemning”, while half of those polled were against same-sex marriage and gay rallies.

The bill states that “[homosexual] propaganda goes through the mass media and public events that propagate homosexuality as normal behaviour.” The bill has been praised by a number of public figures and the Orthodox Church, being seen as an attempt to promote traditional Russian values over what many in the country see as “western liberalism”.