MOSCOW- Russian lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would punish "homosexual propaganda" directed at minors. This comes on the heels of the recent adoption of similar legislation in St. Petersburg, the second-largest city in the country, that makes " homosexual and pedophile propaganda" punishable by fine, in amounts ranging from approximately $170 for individuals to $17,000 for corporations.

The law introduced on Thursday in the Russian Parliament, the Duma, will essentially make the St. Petersburg law national.

A memo explaining the proposed law proclaimed, "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."

The authors of the legislation also declared: "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." According to its authors, the goal of the law project is to protect the younger generation from the effects of "homosexual propaganda."

Defining what constitutes "propaganda"

Thebill's sponsors insist that the proposed legislation has nothing to do with individual sexual orientation, only with the dissemination of "propaganda."

The problem, according to Tatyana Glushkova, a lawyer for a civil rights organization, is that the laws, both in St. Petersburg and the one proposed in the Duma, do not define either "propaganda" or "propaganda directed towards minors."

"Practically any action that is connected to homosexuality in any way could be construed as propaganda," Glushkova says. "Basically, saying anything positive or even neutral about homosexuality in front of children would be forbidden."

Homosexuality was illegal in the Soviet Union until 1993, but continues to be widely stigmatized in Russian society.

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations.

Read the full article in Kommersant in Russian.

Photo - Dedd