Legislation that will go to an initial vote in the Russian Parliament later this month could make spreading “homosexual propaganda” a crime punishable by a fine of up to $16,000 across all of Russia.
The Associated Press reports that public acts of open same-sex affection and events promoting or celebrating gay rights could become classified as propaganda under a bill being pushed by the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church, which bans “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism”, consisting of “mass media and public events that propagate homosexuality as normal behaviour”.
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The Orthodox Church and the Kremlin have drawn up the bill as part of their efforts to encourage young people to take on Russian values rather than Western liberal ones. Other recent legislation with this aim banned websites and print publications that are deemed “extremist”.
The highest-level fine proposed by the bill would be one thousand times the amount charged to activist Pavel Samburov, who made the news last year after Russian police fined him $16 for kissing his boyfriend at a public protest under the charge of “public hooliganism”.
Mr Samburov, who founded gay rights activist collective the Rainbow Association, says that the bill is part of a crackdown on minorities intended to distract the majority from discontent with Putin’s regime.
The bill is reported to have been accepted or even supported by the majority of the public. Levada polls showed that two thirds of Russians agreed with the statement that homosexuality is “morally unacceptable and worth condemning”, and half of those think it is caused by “a sickness or a psychological trauma”.