Consensual same-sex activity has been decriminalized in Russia in 1993, however, LGBTI people still face widespread discrimination and violence all over Russia. St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, has recently enacted a legislation to ban “propaganda for homosexuality” as it’s “converting Russia’s youth.”
The bill, which St. Petersburg’s city assembly passed nearly unanimously on the first of three readings, will effectively ban public events by LGBTI people and organizations under the pretext of protecting minors. Under the legislation, freedom of assembly and expression for LGBTI groups would be prohibited anywhere children might be present. If enacted, the law would allow authorities to impose fines of up to the equivalent of $1,600 for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.” Publications and other informative forms of literature and media representations of the LGBTI will also be restricted to what the authorities deem appropriate.
There has been a serious backlash against the bill from both the LGBTI rights activists in Russia and the international human rights organizations; specifically Amnesty International, who has urged St. Petersburg not to enact the homophobic bill which would “threaten freedom of expression and fuel discrimination against the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.”
“This bill is a thinly veiled attempt to legalize discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Russia’s second-biggest city,” said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director.
When comparing the situation in St. Petersburg to the United States, many would say that we’re better off here because no one would think about passing legislations like that. But is that really true? We say discrimination is wrong, yet LGBTI people do not share many of the rights that are granted to heterosexuals. Is this equality?