A series of new laws threaten to stifle the free speech rights of the Lesbian Gay Transgender and Bisexual (LGBT) community in Russia.

Most recently, the so called "Gay Gag Rule, " which took effect in March, prohibits the “propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors.” While that may sound like a noble purpose,  gay rights activists claim it would criminalize reading, writing or speaking about any gay, lesbian, or transgender people. Violations of the law carry fines up to $16,700. Because the law is so sweeping, a violation could include the mere publication of the fact that certain prolific people in Russian history were a part of the LGBT community.

One outspoken gay rights activist who has collected signatures against the law, has stated, “It’s very worrying because all the work that the LGBT activists are doing can be subject to this law and everything we do is risky. Most of our activities are restricted already and we don’t know what the future has in store.”

Recently, for example, a heterosexual man who held up a sign in support of a lesbian friend was found guilty of disobeying police orders to stop displaying the sign, though not of violating the statute itself.

The chilling effect upon free speech has already been seen in business pulling support for events, and in citizens refusing to show support for LGBT issues for fear of being charged with violating the statute. It will be interesting to see how Russia responds to the international reaction surrounding the issue, particularly whether it attempts to maintain its position as striving for modernity in democratic rights.

 

 

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