The new law in Russia makes it illegal to spread “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relations” in all media, including social, advertising, and movies.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia intensified his crackdown on LGBTQ people when he signed new legislation that widely bans public expression of their identity in the country.
The law criminalizes any act regarded as an attempt to promote what Russia calls “non-traditional sexual relations” – in film, online, advertising, or in public – and expands on a notorious 2013 law that banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors and was used to detain gay rights activists.
Under the new law, individuals can be fined up to 400,000 roubles (£5,400) and organizations 5 million roubles (£68,500) for “propagandizing non-traditional sexual relations”, while foreigners could face up to 15 days’ arrest and expulsion from Russia.
Human rights groups and LGBTQ+ activists say the extension of the law means any act or public mention of same-sex relationships is functionally being outlawed.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has already signed the bill and the crackdown may soon escalate.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin has launched a fresh effort to promote “traditional values”, with the Russian leader making anti-gay rhetoric one of the cornerstones of his political agenda.
In a recent speech, Putin accused the west of “moving towards open satanism”, citing the promotion of gay and transgender rights in Europe as an example.
Alexander Khinshtein, a senior lawmaker and one of the bill’s designers, said the war in Ukraine had given the anti-LGBTQ+ law “new relevance”.
“The special military operation takes place not only on the battlefield but also in the minds and souls of people,” Khinshtein said, referring to the conflict in Ukraine.
In an earlier discussion of the bill, Khinshtein targeted the popular children’s cartoon Peppa Pig, after a lesbian couple joined its cast of characters in an episode titled Families.
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox church and a close ally of Putin, also backed the new law. In an earlier sermon, Kirill bizarrely blamed the country’s invasion of Ukraine on gay pride parades.
Russian Human Rights activists have condemned the bill. Igor Kochetkov, the head of the rights group Russian LGBT Network, said the bill was an “absurd” government attempt to further discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community in Russia. Human rights critics fear the law will be used to close down independent film and book festivals, making the topic of gay sexual orientation essentially taboo in Russia.
This law is part of an ongoing homophobic government campaign against LGBTQ rights. This is part of a broader attack on anything the government deems ‘western and progressive’.
But while the Russian government has expanded its attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, recent polling has indicated parts of Russian society are becoming more tolerant towards the gay community, with a 2019 poll showing that 68% of younger Russians view the LGBTQ+ community as “normal”.
And in July 2022, Daria Kasatkina, Russia’s highest-ranked female tennis player, came out as gay, a move applauded by fellow athletes and parts of the Russian public. Many in the country are becoming more accepting of the LGBTQ community and a new law will not buck this trend, but it is still is a cause for concern.