Cai Wilkinson on recent LGBTQ developments in Russia. Her geographic focus is on the former Soviet Union, and she is currently working on projects about LGBT rights and human rights norms in Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
The issue of LGBT rights in Russia first properly came to mainstream international attention in March 2012, when the St Petersburg Duma passed a law prohibiting “public acts aimed at the propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism amongst minors“. The law provoked an international outcry, including calls for tourists to boycott St Petersburg, sister-cities to consider cut off ties with Russia’s “window on Europe”, and condemnation from the EU, with the European Parliament passing a resolution noting that it was “gravely concerned by developments which restrict freedom of expression and assembly on the basis of misconceptions about homosexuality and transgenderism” and calling on Russia and other countries considering the adoption of similar legislation to “demonstrate, and ensure respect for, the principle of non-discrimination”.
In actual fact, this was not the first “anti-gay” law to be passed in Russia; Ryazan Oblast’s Duma adopted an amendment to local legislation to outlaw the “propaganda of homosexualism” in May 2006, and Arkhangelsk and Kostroma Oblasts followed suit in 2011. Yet the passing of the St Petersburg law proved to be a catalyst for other administrations to introduce similar laws, with a further six subsequently adopting similar legislation and others considering it (so far only the Moscow Regional Duma has rejected legislation). Most significantly, these laws paved the way for consideration of a federal bill outlawing the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”, which the Russian Duma passed on June 11 despite continuing international condemnation and the fierce opposition of local LGBTQ activists and their supporters, who frequently endured physical attacks and arrests while protesting against the law.