Edinburgh must use influence to halt draconian anti-gay law

Campaigners call on Lord Provost to use 'twinning arrangement' with St Petersburg

Amnesty International Scotland, Equality Network, Scottish Youth Parliament and NUS Scotland LGBT have all called on Edinburgh's Lord Provost to use the city's 'twinning arrangement' with St Petersburg in order to urge authorities in Russia's second largest city not to enact a bill which would threaten freedom of expression and fuel discrimination against the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

If enacted, the law would allow the authorities to impose fines of up to the equivalent of £1,000 for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.”

Under the measure, freedom of assembly and expression for LGBTI groups would be prohibited anywhere Children's rights might be present. This would rule out nearly all public events carried out by or on behalf of LGBTI people and organisations. The publication of anything relating to LGBTI rights or providing assistance or advice - including informative leaflets as well as publications in the media and on the internet - would also be severely curtailed.

Local LGBTI rights activists have blasted the law, saying it will provide legal cover for banning any of their actions, including the distribution of information leaflets or even actions against homophobia.

Amnesty International's Programme Director in Scotland, Shabnum Mustapha, said:

"Throughout Russia, we have witnessed a clampdown on freedom of expression of LGBTI individuals, NGOs and activists. There has been harassment, intimidation and interference with gay prides and other public events; as well physical violence and the detention of peaceful demonstrators by the police. To seek to 'legitimise' this discrimination and oppression of the LGBTI community through legislation is appalling."

Nathan Sparkling, NUS Scotland's LGBT Officer, said:

“Legislation such as this will only further marginalise LGBTI people and must be stopped - in St Petersburg and throughout Russia. The notion that Russia's youth are somehow being converted through 'propoganda' would be laughable if the repercussions weren't so dangerous."

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said:

"The twinning of St Petersburg and Edinburgh provides the Lord Provost with a legitimate platform from which to raise grave concerns about the treatment of the LGBTI community and to call on the Governor of St Petersburg to oppose the legislation. Failure to do so would be tantamount to condoning this draconian and extremely harmful legislation."

Grant Costello, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said:

"The Scottish Youth Parliament hope that Edinburgh City Council encourages all of the city's international partners and friends from around the world to acknowledge the importance of fairness and equality in civic society.”

  • Read the letter to the Lord Provost .

Background

Edinburgh has been 'twinned' with St Petersburg since 1995.

Amnesty International Scotland, Equality Network, Scottish Youth Parliament and NUS Scotland have urged Edinburgh's Lord Provost to use his influence to communicate directly to the Governor of St. Petersburg and express his concerns at these discriminatory and harmful amendments which should not become law. The organisations have called upon the Lord Provost to urge authorities in St. Petersburg:

  • Not to vote for or sign into law the amendment banning “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderness amongst minors”
  • To ensure that LGBTI individuals and organisations, and defenders of LGBTI rights, are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association.

In November 2011, the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg voted in the first reading in favour of the amendment to the Law on Administrative Violations, which aim to introduce fines for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderness amongst minors”.

The amendment would adversely affect the freedom of expression and assembly of individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, as well as the activities and operations of LGBTI rights organisations. It would also hamper the work of other human rights defenders working to protect the rights of LGBTI individuals. The amendment would violate the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and the rights to non-discrimination and equality before the law enshrined in numerous international human rights treaties, to which Russia is a party, including the ICCPR and the ECHR. The amendment would also violate the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which prohibits discrimination and guarantees the right to freedom of expression.

The proposed amendments would also prevent LGBTI young people from accessing or sharing information that is vital to their health and well-being, including information about social groups, support networks, and sexual and reproductive health. This would have serious detrimental effects on the physical and mental health of young people who identify as, or who are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.

The stated aim of the amendment is to protect Children's rights from harm and from violations of their human rights. However, Amnesty International believes that, as currently formulated, the law will not protect Children's rights and will in fact constitute a violation of the human rights of many, including of Children's rights and young people in St. Petersburg. This amendment, if passed, will further entrench discrimination and hostility towards, and in some cases, as Amnesty International has documented violence against LGBTI individuals.

Similar laws have already been passed by the Riazan and Arkhangelsk regions, and are being proposed in Moscow. Amnesty International is also concerned about reports of these amendments being introduced at a federal level.  Stopping the amendment from being passed in St. Petersburg is an important signal to other regional and national authorities to reconsider introducing such legislation.

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