Why It Is Wrong in Even Considering Anti Gay Legislation in St Petersburg

UK Gay News Commentary

 

Russia, in allowing ‘anti-gay’ legislation to be introduced in two regions – Ryazan in 2006 and Arkhangelsk last month, has totally flouted conventions of the 47-nation Council of Europe which it voluntarily joined as it came out of the Soviet era.

And when the Duma in St. Petersburg finally passes a similar law in the coming weeks, and this is virtually inevitable, there will be three regions of the country that fall foul of Strasbourg.  In its first reading last week, the bill that will make illegal the ‘the promotion of homosexuality, lesbianism, and transgenderism to minors’ was passed by a whopping 27-1 margin (with one abstention).  There are three ‘readings’ required to pass the bill into law.

If that were not enough, Russian newspapers are reporting that the authorities in Moscow are looking to follow St. Petersburg.  And there are lawmakers in the State Duma of the Federation who want to enact a law that will apply from the Russian enclave of Kalingrad in the Baltics right across to Vladivostok.

What, then, is Russia falling foul of, regarding the Council of Europe?

Back at the end of March 2010, the Committee of Ministers voted unanimously to approve “Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity”.

Paragraph 13 of the document, which Russia agreed to, reads:

“13. Member states should take appropriate measures to ensure, in accordance with Article 10 of the Convention [on Human Rights], that the right to freedom of expression can be effectively enjoyed, without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, including with respect to the freedom to receive and impart information on subjects dealing with sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Frankly, it could not be plainer to the Kremlin.

But, if the Russian government still does not get it, there is the report by the Commissioner on Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg, published by the Council of Europe two short months ago, Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe.

Mr. Hammarberg recommended to all 47 member states that they: “Respect the effective right to freedom of expression by safeguarding the possibility to receive and impart information on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity in any form of expression such as the press, publications, oral and written statements, art and other media.  Any discriminatory provision criminalising the dissemination and diffusion of factual information concerning sexual orientation and gender identity should be abolished.  Unlawful interferences in the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression by LGBT persons should be subject to criminal proceedings.”

On November 7, the United Kingdom took over the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe for six months.

In the Committee of Ministers during the handover from Ukraine, British Foreign Minister William Hague MP said that the UK Chairmanship will work to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity across Europe.

“Too many people still suffer outdated prejudices, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he told the Committee of Ministers.  “We will work with the secretariat and our partners in the Committee of Ministers to improve all member states’ performance in this area.”

So, over to you Mr. Hague.  The repressed LGBT community in Russia needs help.

■ An online petition to world leaders protesting the St. Petersburg bill attracted more that 100,000 signatures in its first day.

SEE ALSO

Moscow Authorities Now Propose Anti Gay Bill.  The authorities in Moscow are now proposing to introduce a Bill that will outlaw the “promotion of homosexuality”, it emerged this afternoon. (UK Gay News, November 17, 2011)

Gay and Lesbian Rights: St. Petersburg About to Enter ‘Hall of Shame’.  Commentary by Nikolai Alekseev.  After Ryazan in 2006 and Arkhangelsk, this autumn the regional parliament of St. Petersburg is considering a bill which will outlaw ‘the promotion of homosexuality, lesbianism, and transgenderism to minors’.  St. Petersburg is about to enter the hall of shame of the Russian regions which limit a fundamental human right of an individual, the right to freedom of expression. (UK Gay News, November 16, 2011)

 

 

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