Russia announces plan to extend ‘gay propaganda’ law to adults in chilling crackdown

Gay rights activists march in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg May 1, 2013.

Russia lawmakers have proposed extending the country’s existing “gay propaganda” law to include people of all ages later this year. 

The existing legislation was signed by Vladimir Putin in 2013 and banned any “promotion” of “non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors. Anyone found guilty under the law can be sentenced to heavy fines or imprisonment.

The hateful measure has been used to clamp down on LGBTQ+ advocatesprevent kids from accessing inclusive literature and stop minors from watching LGBTQ-themed content on streaming platforms.

But Alexander Khinshtein, chairman of the State Duma’s information committee, said the 2013 law for minors is now “insufficient”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. He said lawmakers would consider pushing the legislation further to ban depictions of the LGBTQ+ community for “audiences of all ages” in the media and online.

“We propose to fully extend the ban on that sort of propaganda among audiences of all ages (offline, media outlets, the Internet, social media, as well as in cinema theaters),” Khinshtein wrote on Telegram.

Under the proposed changes, any event or act seen as an attempt to promote the LGBTQ+ community could incur a fine, Reuters reported. 

Khinshtein said his committee will consider the proposed amendments and even imposing stricter punishments for any violations of the so-called “gay propaganda law” when they are back in session in the fall.

A demonstrator holds a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin with make-up.

A demonstrator holds a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin with make-up. (GERARD JULIEN/AFP via Getty)

Russia’s parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the country would be banning the promotion of “non-traditional value” since it broke ties with the Council of Europe, the continent’s foremost human rights watchdog.

“Demands to legalise same-sex marriages in Russia are a thing of the past,” Volodin said. “Attempts to impose alien values on our society have failed.”

Russia withdrew from the Council of Europe in March in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

LGBTQ+ advocacy group IGLA-Europe ranked Russia among the least queer-friendly nations in Europe. In this year’s “Rainbow Europe” index, Russia came in 46th out of the 49 European countries – edging slightly above Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

LGBTQ+ Russians previously told PinkNews that hopes for change in the country have diminished as the war in Ukraine continues, and many have fled the country in hopes they will find a better future elsewhere. 

Maria – an LGBT+ activist in Russia whose name was changed to protect her identity – said queer people recognised that, if the “system is getting oppressive”, then it probably meant the government is “going to come after minority groups, vulnerable groups”. 

“We don’t know if tomorrow we’re going to wake up in a world where it’s back to before the 90s where LGBT+ relations are punishable by the law and criminal again,” Maria said. “I think people are fearful of that and that’s why they’re leaving.”

Mari felt “desperate” at times and said she didn’t know if she believed it was still “possible to be an LGBT+ activist in Russia anymore”.