European Parliament puts pressure on Russia and Ukraine to drop anti-gay laws

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The European Parliament today adopted two resolutions calling on Russia and Ukraine to abandon their LGBT censorship plans.

The plans in both of the countries could mean fines, or prison sentences for any positive portrayal of the LGBT community in public.

The Ukraine Bill 8711, which received initial approval in October, envisages fines, and prison terms of up to five years for spreading “propaganda of homosexuality”.

The following day, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the country’s second largest city of St Petersburg could continue to enforce its homophobic censorship law.

Russian courts in as many as nine regions currently punish the positive portrayal of gay people, in measures first adopted in 2006. These measures mean no gay pride events, and lawmakers representing United Russia, Vladimir Putin’s party, want to extend these measures to the federal level.

The Parliament adopted one resolution for each country, calling for them to shelve the anti-gay laws.

Both resolutions cited the fact that the two countries must respect a ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee in the case of Fedotova v Russia, which condemned the country for limiting freedom of speech in a discriminatory fashion.

Ukraine’s Bill 8711, would also be an obstacle to concluding the EU-Ukraine visa-free travel arrangement, the European Commission and the Netherlands said.

Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup, said: “I was in Russia and know that Russian people are open-minded, diverse and accepting. Gay and transgender people aren’t a ‘Western import’, just like classical music, literature and opera aren’t a ‘Russian import’: it’s part of both our cultures, we all do it differently but we all do it.

“Russian and Ukrainian politicians must stop creating dangers out of thin air, and respect everyone’s right to free speech.”

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, reacted: “Both Russia and Ukraine signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenent on Civil and Political Rights. No-one forced them to, and they must now respect their international obligations.”

“The European Union will remain strong in its demands, and will continue supporting the activists who bravely defy these unfair laws.”

Last week, Lady Gaga posted two messages of support for the anti-homophobia comments made by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, after he said he did not see any reason why homosexuality should be banned legally in the country, and that it is not a big issue for many Russians.