Saturday, January 26, 2013

Russia & Gay Rights


Rights & Freedoms

Aarticle, by David M. Herszenhorn, in the New York Times not only reveals what has long been known about Political Russia's cozy relationship with the Orthodox Church, but also confirms that the two now share a common view of the world. One of its campaigns of late is to promote "traditional values," and in accordance with such thinking, criminalize non-traditional ways of being and behaviour; not surprising, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted on Friday favouring legislation that would essentially make it a federal crime to promote homosexuality. Herszenhorn writes:
Inside, lawmakers voted 388-1 for the bill, which would make it a federal crime in Russia to distribute “homosexual propaganda,” with violations punishable by fines of up to $16,000. One lawmaker abstained. The bill must be approved by the lower house two more times before being sent to the upper chamber. Similar laws have been approved by a number of regions and municipalities, including St. Petersburg, where supporters of the restriction tried unsuccessfully to use it to bring charges against the pop star Madonna.
 The overwhelming vote fits with a larger pattern in recent months of the Russian government drawing closer to the Russian Orthodox Church and favoring so-called traditional values over individual liberties or behavior perceived as representing more modern, Western influences. This has included the aggressive prosecution and conviction of members of the punk band Pussy Riot for a stunt in Moscow’s main cathedral, and legislation imposing new restrictions on the Internet in the name of protecting children from pornography.
Protecting children from harm is good and necessary; yet this piece of legislation, whatever your sentiments on gays and lesbians, is worrisome and an unnecessary infringement of individual rights. Denying rights to one identifiable group opens the door to denying it to others, notably if religion and "traditional values" are used as the reason for the law's implementation. Human-rights advocates ought to be concerned.

That Russia is moving in this way (toward some form of autocratic theocracy) is not surprising given its history of anti-western bias and the need to silence dissent [see herehere & here]; that it can change course and move toward a western-style democracy is unlikely today, not under the current administration. It's going to be a long, cold Russian winter.

You can read the rest of the article at [NYT].