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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 14
'Week against Homophobia' challenges Russian anti-Gay law
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'Week against Homophobia' challenges Russian anti-Gay law

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Russian activists began what they are calling a Week Against Homophobia with a court challenge to St. Petersburg's infamous 'Don't Say Gay' law.

The law, similar to ones adopted in other Russian cities, forbids 'public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, Lesbianism, Bisexuality, and Transgenderism among minors.' It went into effect on March 17.

People convicted under the law face fines ranging from 5,000 rubles ($170) for individuals to 500,000 rubles ($17,000) for businesses.

St. Petersburg authorities have threatened to arrest Madonna if she mentions LGBT rights during her scheduled August 9 concert in the city.

Activists say the 'Don't Say Gay' law contradicts the administrative code of Russia by using terms like 'Bisexualism,' 'Transgenderism,' and 'traditional and nontraditional family relationships,' which are left undefined in the law. Therefore, the activists say, it is impossible to state what the violation would be, and arbitrary interpretations are likely to arise.

Any public mention of same-sex relations might be considered an administrative offense, activists say.

The law also violates the principle of equality under the law, they add, because it codifies the inequality of 'traditional' and 'nontraditional family relationships.'

LGBT activists also point out that the law contradicts existing legal guarantees of children's rights by asserting the inferiority of same-sex families and inciting social hatred and violence against LGBT people.

'There is nothing immoral in the information that there are different sexual orientations and different families. That is why we don't mean to cut our activities in any way,' said Week Against Homophobia coordinator Mikhail Belodedov.

'We are not going to put up with the laws that are in contradiction to the knowledge of modern science and offend hundreds of thousands of St. Petersburg citizens.'

Same-sex sexual relations were illegal in the old Soviet Union, and were only decriminalized in 1993. Even though legal, same-sex attraction was still listed as a mental disorder until 1999.

Although Russia is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, there are no national anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation or gender identity and no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

In 2010, the European Court of Human rights fined Russia $40,000 for banning the Moscow Pride Parade in successive years from 2006 through 2008.

Nevertheless, the 2011 Pride event was also banned. When activists went ahead with their march in spite of the ban, they were attacked by neo-Nazi thugs. Police arrested 30 people, most of them LGBT rights activists, including Dan Choi, Andy Thayer, and Louis-George Tin.

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