Russian HR watchdog to check ban on 'gay propaganda'

Russia’s top Human Rights watchdog, The Public Chamber is planning to check if recently introduced laws banning gay propaganda are constitutional.

Public Chamber member Yelena Lukyanova is a professor of constitutional law, and said in a newspaper interview that some of the chamber members think the laws targeting gay propaganda are limiting freedom of expression. The Public Chamber suggests if the laws are not repealed as being anti-constitutional, a precise formula on what can be considered propaganda should be introduced.

Lukyanova said the Public Chamber will have hearings and pass a resolution on the subject in the near future.

“We should thoroughly check into these laws’ conformity with the Constitution. It says that the rights can only be limited if there is a threat to national security. But is homosexuality a threat to national security? Is not is an artificial limitation, just as it was with the law on rallies?” the activist told the Izvestia newspaper, adding that it was necessary to start a broad public discussion regarding such initiatives.

Another member of the Public Chamber, Yelena Toppoleva-Soldunova, saysin her view it was completely unnecessary to introduce separate laws banning gay propaganda as it was possible to make exactly the same limitation in already existing legal acts.

“We should distinguish between what is admissible and what is not. If someone is announcing his or her sexual orientation, this cannot be banned, but it is completely inadmissible to make children’s television programs that promote homosexuality,” Topoleva-Soldunova said.

One of the leaders of the Russian gay rights movement, Nikolai Alekseyev, has welcomed the Public Chamber’s initiative and that the existing laws should be probed by lawyers, experts and psychologists. “In reality we are about 30 years behind in this process. They introduced anti-gay laws in Britain in the 80s under Margaret Thatcher, but later they cancelled them all in the 2000s. The same will happen in our country,” Alekseyev said.

This year some Russian politicians started an active campaign against so-called gay propaganda – a special law was approved and signed into force in St. Petersburg, prompting legislatures in the cities of Samara, Ryazan, Arkhangelsk, Novosibirsk and Kostroma to introduce administrative fines for propaganda of homosexuality. A group of parliamentarians have suggested approving a similar law on a nationwide scale.