Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that "totally ban[s] LGBT propaganda", Russian state media has reported.
According to TASS, Russia's main state news agency, the new legislation will mean that "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations, gender reassignment and paedophilia" will be "completely prohibited on social networks, in the mass media, films and advertisements". Violations of the new law could be met with fines of up to 5 million rubles, or €75,000.
"In Russia’s new era of repression, state-sanctioned homophobia is about to be ramped up to a whole new level," Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said after the law passed Russia's lower house in October. "From banning films and books with openly LGBT characters to ostracising LGBT people, the passing of this new law will be yet another disaster for human rights."
The new bill constitutes a significant expansion of an earlier "LGBT propaganda" law passed by the Kremlin in 2013: the new law not only widens the previous legislation's reach to include "propaganda" aimed at adults as well as children but also broadens the definition of what exactly such "propaganda" consists in.
Reuters has also reported that the vagueness of much of the bill's language "gives room for law enforcers to interpret [its provisions] as broadly as they wish", thus potentially allowing the law to be used to close down gay clubs and even prohibit same-sex kissing in public.
A bizarre obsession
Although homophobia is prevalent across much of Russian society, the rapid passage and implementation of the new law was almost certainly primarily a consequence of Putin's own growing obsession with LGBT-related issues.
In his annual press conference last year, Putin openly complained about the "gender obscurantism" of much of Western society and even suggested that Western discourse surrounding LGBT issues violates basic common sense.
"I adhere to that traditional approach that a woman is a woman and a man is a man," he said. "All the peoples of the Russian Federation, I would like to stress, all of them have a certain internal moral protection against this obscurantism that you've just mentioned...If somebody thinks that a woman and a man are the same thing, they're welcome to [their opinion], but a certain common sense should exist."
Since his decision to launch Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Putin's anti-LGBT zealotry has, if anything, grown only more vociferous.
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In a rambling speech announcing the annexation of four regions of Ukrainian territory by Russia in September, Putin railed against the West's "radical denial of moral, religious, and family values", which he claimed amounted to "pure Satanism" and a "complete renunciation of what it means to be human".
"Do we want to have here, in our country, in Russia, 'parent number one, parent number two and parent number three'... instead of mother and father?" Putin said. "Do we want our schools to impose on our children, from their earliest days, perversions that lead to degradation and extinction?... This is all unacceptable to us. We have a different future of our own."