THE BLOG
08/23/2013 05:23 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Propagating Hate: Russia's "Gay Propaganda" Laws Revisited

The amendment to the Russian Federal Law, effectively banning the "propaganda" of same-sex sexual relations to minors, what are called "non-traditional sexual relations," makes for chilling reading. Stephen Fry's likening it to anti-Semitism may not be far wrong; it is aimed at invalidating LGBT people which, in turn, fosters a climate of hate. To highlight this, the text of an "Explanatory Note" published with the Bill and the new clause of the Legal Code of the Russian Federation itself, approved by Vladimir Putin on 29th June 2013, is reproduced below with the words "non-traditional" sexual relationships and "homosexuality" replaced with "interracial" relationships, for its resemblance to Nazi racial laws of the 1930s is among this law's most terrifying features.

What follows is based on an accurate translation of the original Russian documents (there is no official translation, as far as I'm aware). The Explanatory Note would read (with modifications in bold):

The promotion of interracial relationships has sharply increased in modern-day Russia. This promotion is carried out via the media as well as via the active pursuit of public activities which try to portray interracial relationships as normal behavior. This is particularly dangerous for children and young people who are not able to take a critical approach to this avalanche of information with which they are bombarded on a daily basis. In view of this, it is essential, first and foremost, to protect the younger generation from exposure to the promotion of interracial relationships, this being the aim of the present bill....

It is therefore essential to put in place measures which provide for the intellectual, moral and mental wellbeing of children, including a ban on any activities aimed at popularizing interracial relationships. A ban of this kind on propaganda as an activity involving the intentional and indiscriminate spreading of information which may be injurious to physical, moral and spiritual wellbeing, including instilling distorted ideas that society places an equal value on traditional and interracial sexual relations, amongst people who are incapable, due to their age, of critically assessing this information on their own, cannot in itself be considered a breach of the constitutional rights of citizens.

In view of the above, a bill has been drafted which introduces amendments to the Legal Code of the Russian Federation by making the promotion of interracial relationships to minors illegal. However, it would not be an offense to be a person in an interracial relationship but only to promote interracial relationships to minors.

The bill confers the right of drawing up charge sheets relating to activities carried out in public which are aimed at promoting interracial relationships to minors on officials of the authorities responsible for internal affairs (the police) and of considering any resulting cases on the courts.

The text of the new clause, again replacing "non-traditional" with "interracial," would be as follows:

Article 6.21. Promoting interracial sexual relations to minors:

1. Promoting interracial sexual relations to minors by spreading information aimed at instilling in minors interracial sexual arrangements, the attractiveness of interracial sexual relations and/or a distorted view that society places an equal value on traditional and interracial sexual relations or propagating information on interracial sexual relations making them appear interesting, provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from four thousand to five thousand roubles for individuals, from forty thousand to fifty thousand roubles for officials, from eight hundred thousand to one million roubles or suspension of operations for up to ninety days for legal entities.

2. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out using the mass media and/or information-telecommunications channels (including the internet) provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand roubles for individuals, from one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand roubles for officials, of one million roubles or suspension of operations for up to ninety days for legal entities.

3. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out by foreigners or stateless persons provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from four thousand to five thousand roubles plus deportation from the Russian Federation or detention for up to fifty days plus deportation from the Russian Federation.

4. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out by foreigners or stateless persons using the mass media and/or information-telecommunications channels (including the internet) provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand roubles plus deportation from the Russian Federation or detention for up to fifty days plus deportation from the Russian Federation.

Clearly this modified version of the law would be wholly unacceptable. But the original text is no less obscene in targeting sexual rather than racial minorities. It has already been used against Russian citizens and foreigners. Legal sanctions also legitimize the victimization of LGBT people, which has led to some horrific violence. Minors are, of course, everywhere, and the law's provisions are so far-reaching, including all communication channels, as to make any attempt to speak about, defend or demonstrate sexual orientation or trans-gender identity publicly under any circumstances subject to fines and imprisonment. There can be no support for gay teens in schools and even to discuss issues around bullying and suicide would break the law, as would a challenge to the law in the courts or the Duma. This is a step back to the graveyard of state-sponsored bigotry reminiscent of Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa and some pre-1960s southern states of the U.S.