Spread of Russian-style anti-LGBT laws

During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, many speculated how much of an effect the anti-LGBT laws in Russia would have not only on the Russian people but also on the citizens of surrounding countries. Although the Games have officially ended, the equality movement in Eastern Europe is incredibly urgent. According to Human Rights First, several countries in Eastern Europe proposed similar laws which would negatively impact the LGBT communities locally as well as globally. Although the bill was later removed from consideration, shortly after the Russian propaganda law went in effect, the Armenian government proposed a similar bill. Similarly to the Russian propaganda law, it would prohibit the public promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships.” If passed, LGBT individuals would have to pay a fine of $4,000.00.

In Belarus, the parliament began discussing passing the same law claiming that “under the guise of protecting the rights of sexual minorities, is the promotion and advocacy of homosexuality, especially among minors, [and] thus [is] destroying the family and public morality.” The law is planned to be put into effect by the end of this year. Along with the possible passing of propaganda like law, during a pride rally in the downtown Tbilisi, Georgia thousands of members of the Georgian Orthodox Church attacked a group of LGBT individuals. "We don't approve of violence, but propaganda of this (homosexuality) must not be allowed. It is a sin” said Ilia II who serves as the Head of Church in Georgia. Although Kazakhstan is further away from passing a law banning the support and public promotion of LGBT rights, in September of 2013, a member of Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament, Aldan Smaiy said “I asked to ban gay clubs, demonstrations and any and all of these disgusting relations” after filling out a petition to ban LGBT relationships and introduce a propaganda law to Kazakhstan.

Just across the border from Kazakhstan in Kyrgyzstan a bill banning “propaganda of homosexuality” has already been introduced. According to the Deputy Speaker Torobaev Zulpukarov a draft amendment of this bill already exists. This past November, Latvia’s Central Election Commission gave permission to anti-LGBT groups in Latvia to collect 30,000 signatures in order to introduce a referendum banning any LGBT relationships. If the number of signatures is reached by this November, the referendum will in fact move forward. In the surrounding Lithuania, we can also see the effects of the Russian propaganda laws. Earlier this year, the Lithuanian Parliament introduced amendments to the Code of Administrative Violations of Law which would heavily fine individuals spreading LGBT related issues through music, posters, demonstrations etc. In order for the amendment to become a law a third vote is needed. Lately, the Lithuanian Parliament has blocked the bill.

Last year the Moldavian lawmakers passed a bill banning “relationships other than those linked to marriage and the family.” The bill was later removed. In Ukraine, more than 3 years ago a bill has been proposed to ban the promotion of LGBT issues in the Ukrainian media. Although the bill never went in effect, there have been speculations that the bill might be reconsidered. Although as the LGBT community and its supporters, we were able to raise awareness about the propaganda laws in Russia, it is important to consider the other countries that are also affected. When such laws go in effect, now only do LGBT individuals face criminalization and fines but they are also exposed to various types of violence from anti-LGBT groups. After the Russian government passed the propaganda law, the violence towards members of the LGBT community increased. Since the community is offered no protection under the law, they constantly face anti-LGBT related crimes.

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