GENEVA (1 February 2013) – A group of United Nations independent human rights experts today called on the lower house of the Russian parliament to discard a draft bill to establish administrative penalties for “propaganda of homosexuality among minors,” which has already been approved by the State Duma.
The experts on freedom of expression, human rights defenders, cultural rights and the right to health warned the bill may undermine the enjoyment and promotion of human rights in Russia, unjustifiably singling out lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, who have increasingly become the target of sanctions and violence in the country.
“Any restriction on freedom of opinion and expression should be based on reasonable and objective criteria, which is not fulfilled by the draft bill approved during the first reading by the Duma,” said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue. “The law could potentially be interpreted very broadly and thereby violate not only the right to freedom of expression but also the prohibition of discrimination.”
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, warned that this legislation could be used to unduly restrict the activities of those advocating for the rights of LGBT individuals. “The draft legislation could further contribute to the already difficult environment in which these defenders operate, stigmatizing their work and making them the target of acts of intimidation and violence, as has recently happened in Moscow,” she stressed.
“We fear that such laws, in practice, will exacerbate an already difficult situation for LGBT individuals wishing to express their identity, and will hamper the organization of cultural events or dissemination of artistic creations addressing LGBT issues,” highlighted the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed. She further underlined that LGBT youth would be particularly affected.
Stressing the bill’s ambiguous wording, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, warned that “banning ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ may not only penalize those who promote sexual and reproductive health among LGBT people, but will also undermine the right of children to access health-related information in order to safeguard their physical and mental health.” Far from protecting children, the proposed law would potentially harm them by re-enforcing stigma and contributing to a discriminatory environment, which would put them at increased risk.
Pointing out that the “window of opportunity is still open” to reverse the decision during the next two readings at the Duma, the UN experts urged parliamentarians to “exercise leadership by scrapping the bill to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia.”