Activists in Russia are reporting that arrests are now taking place under the St. Petersburg law prohibiting people from promoting so-called LGBT propaganda.
Two people were arrested over the weekend during a demonstration at a concert hall under the law that prohibits “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors.”
Several days before that arrest, two other men were taken into custody for carrying signs that read, according to translations from Russian newspaper reports, “Gay is OK.”
The four men face fines of $170 if found guilty of violating the measure. Businesses and groups prosecuted under the law could face fines of $17,000.
Similar laws exist in Russia’s Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma regions, and a bill has been introduced in Russia’s lower house of parliament to create a national ban on LGBT propaganda.
The sponsors said, “Homosexual propaganda has spread widely in modern Russia. This kind of propaganda is distributed both through the mass media, as well as through events that promote the homosexual lifestyle as a normal behavior.”
“This is especially dangerous for children and youth, who are not yet capable of thinking critically about the avalanche of information they see on a daily basis.”
Russian civil rights lawyer Tatyana Glushkova told the Kommersant that the measures do not define “propaganda” and “basically, saying anything positive or even neutral about homosexuality in front of children would be forbidden.”
Some activists have called for celebrities to boycott St. Petersburg over passage of the legislation and Canada has issued a travel advisory warning its citizens about the restrictions in Russia’s second-largest city.
Before St. Petersburg enacted the law, the U.S. State Department raised concerns. A spokesperson said the measure “would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, and indeed all Russians. As Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton has said, gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.
“We have called on Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens.”
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