Russia: New anti-gay laws an affront to basic human rights

President Vladimir Putin’s new laws criminalising blasphemy and outlawing public activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals are an affront to freedom of expression and an attack on minority rights, Amnesty International said today. 

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Central and Eastern Europe Programme Director, said:

“This is the reality of Russia today – the suppression of any form of dissent or diverging views in all spheres of life, from the political to the social. This demonstrates once again the disregard the authorities there have for their international and national obligations in promoting the human rights of all people under their jurisdiction.”

The law criminalising blasphemy which came into force yesterday imposes fines of up to RUB 500,000 (nearly £10,000) and up to three years imprisonment for public activities which disrespect or insult the religious beliefs of people in places of worship. If committed elsewhere, the offence carries up to a year of imprisonment and a fine of up to RUB 300,000 (nearly £6,000).

This legislative assault on freedom of conscience comes in the aftermath of last year’s trial and conviction of three members of the all-female Russian punk group Pussy Riot for “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral.

John Dalhusien said:

“The law on blasphemy effectively discriminates against non-believers. It aims to punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith in a way that is clearly inconsistent with the freedom of expression.”

The second law targeting LGBTI individuals came into force yesterday, straight after being signed by President Putin. It imposes fines on those accused of promoting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” which it says could morally corrupt Children's rights.

John Dalhuisen said:

“This law will only increase further the high levels of discrimination and harassment of LGBTI people in the Russian society. It stigmatises them and prevents and denies the right to sex education and support for young people exploring their sexuality.”

It includes penalties of up to RUB 5,000 (£100) for individuals, up to ten times that for officials, and up to RUB 1,000,000 (nearly £20,000) as well as possible three-month suspension of activities for organisations. 

Last Saturday, a lawful LGBTI gathering in St.Petersburg was broken up by the police following a complaint that it violated a ban on "propaganda of homosexuality". Activists were assaulted by anti-gay protestors. The police detained 55 LGBTI activists; at least one sustained serious injuries.

John Dalhuisen said:

“This is government sponsored intolerance. The law violates the prohibition of discrimination and explicitly infringes on the right to freedom of expression and assembly.”

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