MOSCOW (AP) — Russian lawmakers on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a bill that imposes tough new restrictions on activities promoting LGBTQ rights in the country.
A 2013 Russian law banned what authorities consider to be the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to children. It has been used to stifle debate in any public setting and to prevent protests or any public gatherings with pro-LGBTQ content that a child might possibly see or hear.
International human rights groups have denounced the law for creating a hostile environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gay Russians.
The new bill, which Russia’s lower house of parliament unanimously approved in the first of three readings, tightens restrictions and expands the ban on showing to cover all age groups, not just the population under 18 years old.
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It prohibits advertising, online media and resources, books, films and theater productions deemed to contain such propaganda.
With respect to minors, the new bill expands existing restrictions by banning information about gender transitions.
Violations are subject to fines and, if committed by non-residents, may result in their expulsion from Russia.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the proposed bill could be further toughened at the second reading, when lawmakers present their amendments.
Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, reacted to the bill’s preliminary approval by saying that “in the new era of Russian repression, homophobia sanctioned by the state is about to reach a whole new level”.
The bill “not only brazenly deprives (LGBTQ) people of their right to freedom of expression and condones their discrimination, but is also likely to lead to an increase in violent attacks and other hate crimes against them,” it said. she declared.
If enacted, the law would have far-reaching effects and would likely lead to the shutdown of non-governmental groups, the blocking of websites and the intimidation of activists with the threat of steep fines, according to Struthers.
“Passing this new law will be another disaster for human rights,” she said.
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