Last edited: February 14, 2005

Russians Protest Proposed New Law

Datalounge, April 29, 2002

MOSCOW—Russian gay and lesbian civil rights activists staged an angry demonstration outside the lower house of parliament on Saturday, protesting a new bill that would make consensual sex between two adult men a crime. The Moscow Times identified four State Duma deputies—Dmitry Rogozin, who heads the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe, Gennady Raikov, Vadim Bulainov and Gadzhi Makhachev—as backers of an amendment to the Criminal Code that punishes sodomy with up to five years in jail.

Opponents of the bill said last week passed that if passed, the legislation would mark a return to the harsh anti-gay repression of the Soviet era, when thousands of men accused of being gay were sent to prison.

Raikov, who heads the pro-Kremlin People’s Deputy faction, said it was high time that homosexuality be punished. "You need to punish homosexuality for three reasons: the spread of AIDS, the destruction of spiritual morals and the existence in Russia of four religious confessions that ban it," he said in televised remarks Tuesday.

The move has reportedly caused deep consternation among mainstream politicians. "If there are people with a different sexual orientation, as acknowledged by psychologists and doctors, we must take care of their rights," said Russia’s human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov, Interfax reported.

"It’s naked populism," said Alexander Barannikov, a Unity deputy on the Duma’s law committee, which has to decide whether to approve the amendment to the Duma floor for a vote. He said Rogozin, as a representative to the Council of Europe, the human rights body which actively supports gay rights, should lose his post.

"I think that a person with such homophobic views cannot represent Russia in the Council of Europe," he said.

The protesters, meanwhile, made their opinions abundantly clear. Many wore concentration camp-style uniforms, decorated with pink triangles—to draw attention to the fact that homosexuality was illegal in both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

A correspondent for the BBC said that, at a time when President Putin is concerned about Russia’s image abroad, it is inconceivable that the proposed gay ban would move forward and be put on the statute book.

Officials at the Council of Europe refused to comment. Gay rights activists said Russia’s desire to join the Council of Europe led it to scrap clause 121 of the Soviet Criminal Code that made homosexuality a crime; any adoption of the bill, they said, would violated commitments made to the Council when it joined.

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