December 11, 2022

Anti-LGBTQ Law Has Broad Ripples

Anti-LGBTQ Law Has Broad Ripples
A demonstration against homophobia in Russia. Marco Fieber

On December 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning “propaganda of any information promoting non-traditional sexual relations and gender transition.” Clearly, this is a homophobic law aimed at repressing Russia's LGBTQ minority. But is it only that? And is it possible that this law poses a threat to all Russians, regardless of their sexual orientation?

Since 2013, so-called LGBTQ "propaganda" has been banned among minors in Russia. Now Russian authorities have expanded the ban such that, according to the new law, any public actions that are aimed at “forming attitudes” or “imposing information" that promotes non-traditional sexual relationships or gender transition will be classified as propaganda. 

Such a broad interpretation of “propaganda" worries Russian independent media and experts. In particular, Ivan Brikulsky, a lawyer at the Institute of Law and Public Policy, said he does not understand how “LGBT propaganda” could differ from typical information about homosexuality. 

“Will a conversation with schoolchildren and students about sexual orientation be recognized as 'propaganda'? Or an academic study of the biological nature of sexual orientation?" Brikulsky asked.

The law against “propaganda” could therefore affect online and offline cinema, media, public lectures, advertising, social networks, theatrical productions, and book publishers.

Violations of the law would incur fines of up to R400,000 ($6,430) for individuals and up to R5 million ($80,400) for legal entities. Also, foreigners who violate the law will be expelled from the country.

In the end, authorities now have yet another way to apply pressure on society. And in cases where it will be impossible to apply laws on "misinformation" or "discrediting of the army," it will be possible to find fault with "propaganda" of non-traditional sexual relations. Perhaps this is why this law does not even clearly define what exactly "non-traditional sexual relations" means.

The new law on propaganda will clearly lead to an increase in self-censorship among content distributors. In fact, the law may have only gone into force, but it has already impacted how Russians access information. The Russian e-book service LitRes allows authors to rewrite their books to sidestep the new law. And the online publishing house Ridero launched a neural network check of its catalog to search for LGBTQ-themed works, in order to withdraw them from sale.

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