St. Petersburg Must Not Silence LGBT Population
Freedom House calls for an immediate reversal of the ruling in Saint Petersburg against Russian gay rights activist, Nikolai Alexeyev who was found guilty of promoting “homosexual propaganda” and fined $170 (5,000 rubles). This is the first conviction to be handed down after the passing of a pernicious law aimed at marginalizing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) population and LGBT-rights advocates in St. Petersburg. Freedom House demands that authorities end the campaign to restrict the fundamental rights of LGBT people and LGBT-rights advocates in Russia.
Alexeyev was arrested in April 2012 while picketing outside the city hall in St. Petersburg, holding a sign that read, "homosexuality is not a perversion,” and then briefly detained by authorities. The St. Petersburg City Duma passed a provision forbidding "homosexual propaganda" to minors in March 2012, and introduced fines of between $170 and $17,000 for violators.
Russia is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012 and Freedom of the Press 2012, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2012. The country ‘decriminalized’ homosexuality in 1993, yet the LGBT population continues to face widespread discrimination. In March 2012, the Russian parliament introduced a bill fining 500,000 rubles to those who organized gay gatherings, and is considering passage of the bill. The ban on "homosexual propaganda" in Saint Petersburg followed bans in several other Russian cities, and is especially worrying, as it appears to specifically target rights advocates and their ability to campaign on behalf of the fundamental rights of LGBT people in Russia. Moscow has repeatedly denied requests from LGBT activists, including Alexeyev for the city to host a gay pride parade. The European Court of Human Rights found that Russia violated Alexeyev’s rights in the events surrounding his previous attempts to organize gay pride parades. St. Petersburg also continues to crack down on the LGBT population – on May 1, 17 gay rights activists were arrested during a May Day rally for attempting to unfurl rainbow flags.
Russian authorities should immediately remove vague prohibitions on "homosexual propaganda" and ensure that all Russian citizens have equal rights before the law, including advocates for the rights of LGBT people.
Freedom in the World 2012: Russia
Freedom of the Press 2011: Russia
Freedom on the Net 2011: Russia
Nations in Transit 2011: Russia
Blog: Freedom at Issue