Russia: Federal laws introducing ban of propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Upper Chamber of the Russian Federal Assembly (the Federation Council) and the President of the Russian Federation to reject the Bill passed by the State Duma which seeks to amend several federal laws, including the Code of Administrative Offenses, in order to introduce a ban on so-called ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’.

The Bill does not comply with international human standards. If it becomes law, it will introduce illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression, discriminate against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) persons, impede pluralistic and open discussion on matters of sexual identity, equality and tolerance, and harm the rights of children it ostensibly seeks to promote.

The proposed ban on ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’ will in breach of Russia’s international human rights obligations for a number of reasons:

First, any restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly must meet the requirements of legality, such as certainty and predictability. The definitions of prohibited ‘propaganda’ contained in the Bill are too vague and overly broad to be considered as ‘law’ within the meaning of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The vagueness and subjective nature of the terms used in the Bill can lead to arbitrary interpretation and abuse by law enforcement authorities.

Second, there is no objective and reasonable connection between the introduced restrictions and the purported aim of protecting the rights of children or public morals. The Bill is not supported by any scientific evidence which would show that the type of information covered by the ban has a harmful effect on children. On the contrary, the restrictions will damage the health and development of children as they will be deprived of access to information necessary for their full enjoyment of the right to health and the right to education. Therefore it does not further the otherwise legitimate aim of protecting the rights of others, in this case children; 

Third, the restrictions are discriminatory because they target only information relating to non-heterosexual sexuality and gender identity without a reasonable and objective justification for such differentiated treatment. They are also discriminatory because they perpetuate discriminatory practices and attitudes and silence those advocating for equality and LGBT rights while privileging their opponents.

In light of these considerations, ARTICLE 19 recommends that the Bill is not passed into law.

Full legal analysis is available here

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