U.N. urges Russia to drop anti-gay bill

Feb. 1, 2013 at 3:19 PM
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MOSCOW, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- U.N. officials Friday urged Russian lawmakers to drop consideration of a bill they say would undercut gay rights in the country.

The draft bill before Russia's State Duma would ban "propaganda of homosexuality among minors," which opponents contend would make public events and the dissemination of information on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors punishable by fines of up to $16,000, the United Nations said in a news release.

"Any restriction on freedom of opinion and expression should be based on reasonable and objective criteria, which is not fulfilled by the draft bill approved during the first reading by the Duma," Frank La Rue, special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said. "The law could potentially be interpreted very broadly and thereby violate not only the right to freedom of expression but also the prohibition of discrimination."

U.N. officials said if the bill becomes law, members of the LGBT community would be unfairly singled out for further sanctions and violence.

"The draft legislation could further contribute to the already difficult environment in which these defenders operate, stigmatizing their work and making them the target of acts of intimidation and violence, as has recently happened in Moscow," Margaret Sekaggya, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said.

Farida Shaheed, special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, added that the draft bill could also hinder the organization of cultural events or dissemination of artistic creation dealing with LGBT issues.

Anand Grover, special rapporteur on the right to health, said use of the term "homosexual propaganda" could mean those who promote sexual and reproductive health in the LGBT community could be penalized. Grover added the right of children to access health-related information could be infringed, and discrimination and stigmatization could be reinforced.

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