Sunday, January 27, 2013 by Reuters
Russia’s Parliament backed a draft law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ in what critics see as an attempt to shore up support for President Vladimir Putin in the country’s largely conservative society.
It is relying on the ignorance of people who think homosexuality is some sort of distortion
Only one deputy in the State Duma lower house voted against the bill, but passions spilled over outside the chamber, where 20 people were detained after scuffles between Russian Orthodox Christians and gay activists.
“We live in Russia, not Sodom and Gomorrah,” United Russia deputy Dmitry Sablin said before the 388-1 vote in the 450-seat chamber. Sablin said Russia is an old country “founded on its own traditional values – the protection of which is dearer to me than even oil and gas.”
Veteran human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alexeyeva described the draft law as “medieval” and said it was intended to appeal to conservative voters after months of protests that have sapped Putin’s popularity.
“It (the Duma) is relying on the ignorance of people who think homosexuality is some sort of distortion,” she said.
The legislation has served to deepen divisions in society since Putin returned to the presidency in May and began moves seen by the opposition as designed to crack down on dissent and smother civil society. Putin and his supporters have underlined what they see as conservative, traditional Russian values. He has drawn closer to the Russian Orthodox Church during this time, hoping the support of one of the most influential institutions in Russia will consolidate his grip on power.
Homosexuality, punished with jail terms in the Soviet Union, was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but much of the gay community remains underground and prejudice runs deep.
The US, which is at odds with Putin over human rights issues, voiced concern about the measure.“We are deeply concerned by this draft legislation in Russia that severely restricts freedom of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals – and indeed for all Russians,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
“We call on Russia as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to meet its obligations to protect its citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression without discrimination,” she added.