Human Rights Watch Urges Action On 'Homophobic' Russian Legislation
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for authorities in the Russian city of St Petersburg to stop the passage of a bill that would prevent the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from publicly expressing their sexuality.
The bill, which is going through its second reading on Wednesday, would impose fines of up to 5,000 (£103) rubles on individuals and up to 50,000 (£1030) rubles on organisations who publicly "promote sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality or transsexuality".
The language of the bill is so vague as to make even those using the rainbow flag vulnerable to censure, HRW said.
“This bill is a blatant attack on freedom of expression and a thinly disguised attempt to silence Russia’s LGBT community,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, said. “The effort to have this law adopted in St. Petersburg, known as Russia’s northern capital, is a test case for those who want to entrench discrimination against the LGBT community throughout the country.”
The bill passed by a vote of 37 to one in its first reading in mid-November, and two comparable pieces of legislation have been passed in Ryazan, in 2006, and Arkhangelsk, in 2011. Both the UK's Foreign Office and the US State Department have expressed concern at the bill.
The environment for LGBT people in Russia is "very hostile", HRW said, and gay pride gatherings have been violenty dispersed by police.