Russians Protest Proposed New Law
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
"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
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