|Nikolai Alekseev picketing against the gay propaganda law|
In about a week's time, on 29 of this month, there will be the third and final reading of a law which, if passed, will outlaw the 'propaganda of homosexuality' in St. Petersburg. To be more precise, the law will prosecute the promotion of homosexuality, transsexuality and paedophilia to minors. Yes, as always, we're in good company and our reactionary friends never cease to pronounce in one breath the word 'gay' and 'paedophile' for the sake of causing hatred and murking the waters for the ill-informed. Suffice it to say that homosexuality involves consent, whereas paedophilia most definitely does not... by definition.
What 'propaganda' means is not quite clear but it seems it will make a prosecutable offense any reference to gayness in media, books, movies or any other public display of it... in sum, it's going to be a gagging order flying in the face of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The law carries fines as well and it's already been enacted once before on 11th of January, last month - brave lgbt activist Nikolai Alekseev and two 'accomplices' were fined 2,000 roubles each for holding a placard and a rainbow banner outside Arkhangelsk Regional Children’s Library. The parameters of the 'gay propaganda law' (as it's becoming known) are vague and might persecute anything from displaying a rainbow flag to wearing a dodgy Lady Gaga t-shirt, so declare yourself a little monster at your own peril. I'm guessing a pride march would be out of the question too (not that being punched in the face by a neo-nazi, while conniving policemen look on is much fun anyway, as human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell regrettably experienced during the Moscow Pride of 2007).
St. Petersburg would be the fourth region after Ryazan, Arkhangelsk, and Kostroma, to pass this law, and if this happen, a law at a federal level will be more and more likely as suggested by Human Rights Watch. So why this late regurgitation of a distant if somewhat more raucous and feisty relative of the 'English Section 28'? Nikolai seems to point to the dwindling consensus being suffered by Putin's ruling party 'United Russia' and an attempt to divert the attention from the real issues. To the massive protest of tens of thousands of Russians taking to the streets, last December, to declare their outrage at an alleged electoral fraud which may have been the reason for Putin's party getting the majority in the parliamentary elections, the Russian Prime Minister has responded with a rally in a Moscow stadium, on Thursday 23rd, dishing out cheap lines meant to stoke nationalistic sentiment and consolidate consensus:
"I want to ask you - and I want you to give me an unambiguous response, please answer with a simple short word - yes - do we love Russia?"
While Putin tries to put right its power base by pointing the finger on some of the most vulnerable in Russian's society, we can only scream our outrage to the four corners of the world hoping that the madness will stop and people will see sense. Please sign the All Out petition asking St. Petersburg's governor to veto the bill, on pain of avoiding the city as a tourist destination.