NEW YORK – A group of United Nations experts today called on the Russian parliament to discard a draft bill that would ban ‘propaganda of homosexuality among minors,’ stressing that the proposed legislation would undermine human rights in the country.
Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, has already approved the bill, which reportedly makes public events and the dissemination of information on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to minors punishable by fines of up to $16,000.
“Any restriction on freedom of opinion and expression should be based on reasonable and objective criteria, which is not fulfilled by the draft bill approved during the first reading by the Duma,” said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue. “The law could potentially be interpreted very broadly and thereby violate not only the right to freedom of expression but also the prohibition of discrimination.”
The experts warned that the LGBT community has increasingly become the target of sanctions and violence in the country and the draft law would unjustifiably single them out and restrict the activities of those advocating for their rights.
“The draft legislation could further contribute to the already difficult environment in which these defenders operate, stigmatizing their work and making them the target of acts of intimidation and violence, as has recently happened in Moscow,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya.
The draft bill could also hamper the organization of cultural events or dissemination of artistic creation addressing LGBT issues, said the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed.
In addition, the bill’s ambiguous wording of ‘homosexual propaganda’ may not only penalize those who promote sexual and reproductive health among LGBT people, but also undermine the right of children to access health-related information, and reinforce stigmas and contribute to a discriminatory environment, said Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health.
The experts stressed that the Government still has time to reverse its decision during the next two readings of the bill at the Duma, and urged parliamentarians to “exercise leadership by scrapping the bill to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia.”
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.