2 Men Arrested Under Russia’s ’Homosexual Propaganda’ Law
Two Russian men recently became the first to be arrested under St. Petersburg's "homosexual propaganda" law, Monsters and Critics reported.
St. Petersburg's legislative committee passed the anti-gay law in March. The controversial bill fines individuals up to $16,000 for the "promotion of homosexually" and "pedophilia among minors."
The city's police arrested Alexei Kiselyov and Cyril Nepomnyashiy after holding a small protest. They held up signs that read, "Homosexuality is normal" in St. Petersburg's central district.
"This St Petersburg law banning favorable comments about homosexuality is a shame. This law is absolutely discriminatory and it takes away the right to freedom of expression and assembly from citizens of non-traditional orientations," said Tatyana Lokshina, spokeswoman for the NGO Human Rights Watch.
Lokshina added that the two men challenged the law by blatantly rallying in front of the city's Palace of Youth Creativity -- a government-run building for art displays and musical performances.
The pair may have to pay $170 each for breaking the anti-gay measure. They also face "penalties for breaking national law banning demonstrations in a public area without official sanction" the article notes. The additional penalties could add up to the equivalent of an average Russian's annual salary.
The law defines "homosexual propaganda" as "the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors," that could create "a distorted impression" of "marital relations."
Gay rights activists say that the law takes away some of the city's LGBT citizens' rights.
"There was of course no propaganda in the activists' actions. They were only trying to tell society common scientific truths about the fact that homosexuality is not an illness but a natural and normal sexual orientation," Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev told GayRussia.ru.
The St. Petersburg LGBT organization ComingOut also condemned the law.
"This law would legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia," the group, said in a statement. "The history of Europe shows that all totalitarian regimes here began with similar repression of LGBT people. If this law is allowed to pass, it could signal that Russia is sliding towards a new totalitarianism."
Last month Madonna was urged to cancel a scheduled concert in St. Petersburg in order to protest the law. The pop star announced that she would still perform in Russia's second-largest city but use the opportunity to speak out against the legislation.
"I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed," the singer told Bloomberg Businessweek in an email. "I don't run away from adversity. I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity."