Mr. B. V. Gryzlov, Chairman of the State Duma (Parliament) of Russian Federation
Mr. Yu. Ya. Chaika, General Public Prosecutor of Russian Federation
Mr. V. P. Lukin, Ombudsman for Human Rights in Russian Federation
Ms. E. A. Pamfilova, Charlady of the Board for Assistance to Development of Civil Community and Human Rights Institutions at the President of Russian Federation
In the recent time, the arising common practice in Russia involves breaking the civil rights for self-expression, information search and circulation as well as public appeals to restrictions of these rights with respect to persons of homosexual orientation (male and female homosexuals). The matter is the persistent attempts to introduce the prohibition for the so-called "propaganda of homosexuality" to the legislation and law-enforcement practice.
While this idea was earlier circulated by a few marginal politicians and was hardly perceived by anybody in serious terms, today the concept of "propaganda of homosexuality" has not only came in the daily vocabulary of the conservative politicians but also is applied in practice against the laws in force.
In March 2006, Rostov Regional Office of Public Prosecution made a warning to two television channels in Rostov: Pulse Television and Radio Company and ExpoVIM Company for translation of SMS in television chats, "which contained propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation". In his warning, the public prosecutor stated directly that "propaganda of homosexuality is prohibited in Russia".
For another example, the state registration was rejected for Rainbow House, an organisation from Tyumen. In the own official letter, the Tyumen Regional, Khanty Mansi and Yamal Nenets Autonomous Districts Department at the Federal Registration Service stated, in particular, that "activities of an organisation related to propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation can cause undermining the security of the Russian community and state". Further, the authors of this letter stated that "propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation" was threatening to the territorial integrity of Russian Federation.
In Ryazan Region as one of the subjects of Russian Federation, the prohibition to circulate the information about homosexual relations has already been introduced into the legal practice. On May 24, 2006, the Duma of this region adopted an addition to the local act of administrative offences: "Section 3.13. Public actions oriented to propaganda of homosexuality (male and female) among minor children".
Note that sexual education of minor children and upbringing their respect to individual differences is not only a right but also an obligation of the community and state. This assumes also telling them the trustworthy information about homosexuality, certainly in the forms to be adapted to specific features of perception by teenagers. Already in 2000, the Parliamentary Assembly at the Council of Europe recommended the member parties to fight against homophobia, in particular, by means of education at schools. In this respect, it is clear to any reasonable person that upbringing tolerance and sexual education are not related by any means to involvement of minor children into sexual relations.
We can continue the series of similar examples. We should note that the local legislators and officials, who use the term of "propaganda of homosexuality", do not describe the same. The only interpretation is given in the already famous bill of Mr. Chuev. In his definition, this propaganda means "public demonstration of homosexual life style and homosexual orientation" in the works demonstrated in public and by mass media. In accordance with the given definition, issue of, for example, Oscar Wilde's works, Plato's dialogues, some Shakespeare's sonnets, etc. could be considered as a crime. Moreover, it would be impossible to circulate any information, which is necessary for full life activities of male and female homosexuals.
We consider that attempted prohibition of free expression of homosexual beliefs and relevant administrative practice is threatening to the civil security, rights and liberties, contradicting to the Constitution and international obligations of Russian Federation.
Introduction of such measures makes a direct violation of the right, which is fixed by the international acts (see Section 19 of the General Human Rights Convention) and by the Constitution of Russian Federation (see Section 29), for free expression of the own beliefs, which includes the liberty of free following the own beliefs and liberty to search for, receive and circulate information and ideas by any means.
But the most important thing is that the prohibition for free circulation of information legalises and perpetuates the close nature of LGBT community, which is the main cause of discrimination, irrational fears and slander with respect to homosexuals.
According to the poll results recorded in June 2006 by the Public Opinion Study Foundation, the persons, who are acquainted to the representatives of sexual minorities, are more tolerant to them than other individuals: in this group, only 28 per cent of respondents denounce them, while the attitude of two-thirds (63 per cent) is not denouncing. The positive correlation between the level of knowledge about the real life of gays and lesbians, on the one hand, and tolerance to them, on the other hand, is evidenced by all rather than only by Russian studies.
The necessity to conceal the own private life circumstances from others is the source of moral sufferings for gays and lesbians. This fact is evidenced by the appeals sent to the address of the Russian LGBT Organisations Network from male and female homosexuals. "There have been many cases, when I managed to hide myself just by intuition, it is simplest to express this with a phrase: I am hiding, and this is the essence of discrimination. In my personal insincerity and thus half-life". The given statement is typical.
This "underground" life often creates the direct danger to the personal security of gays and lesbians. This is another statement: "when I disclosed myself to one boy, he told his friend, who raped me under the threat to open the information that I am a gay". By the way, most cases of murdered gays are also accounted to some extent for by the forced "closeness" of the victims.
The Russian and foreign specialists, who study the problem of HIV / AIDS epidemic, state unambiguously that the stigma of men having sexual intercourse with men and women having sexual intercourse with women prevents achievement of the universal access to prophylactics and treatment of this and other sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, the universal human right of health care is broken.
Finally, we do not feel any illusions with respect to the intentions of those, who support prohibition of "propaganda of homosexuality". Their words about the indifference to the private life of homosexuals and unwillingness to invade this life are untrue. The Parliament Members, who propose today to "prohibit propaganda of homosexuality", voted in 2004 for return of the section to the Criminal Code, which punished for voluntary sexual intercourse between men of full age.
The priors of the Russian Orthodox Church and representatives of other religious organisations have already proposed openly to prohibit gays and lesbians to work as teachers, to take leading positions in the governmental structures. Such initiatives disgrace Russia as a country, which considers itself democratic an declares respect of the fundamental human rights.
The supporters of prohibition for free expression of beliefs by gays and lesbians refer to admissible restriction of rights and liberties for "compliance with the fair moral requirements", in accordance with the General Human Rights Declaration (see Section 29, Part 2).
However, we cannot consider as fair the demands based on lies and prejudices. The main argument of clericals and conservative politicians is that free circulation of information about the life style of gays and lesbians would result in the "growing number of homosexuals". Meanwhile, it has been already known for a long time that the percentage of persons with homosexual orientation in a human population is stable regardless of the place and time. No "propaganda" will be able to alter this fact. As well as it is impossible to increase by means of "propaganda" the percentage of, for example, fair-haired and dark-eyed persons. There is also lie in the references to any "dangers" as if caused by homosexuals: national demographic security, dissemination of infectious diseases, etc.
There are no grounds either under the references to the notorious "majority rights". According to sociological information, 47 to 56 per cent of Russian people denounce gays and lesbians. From year to year, this percentage is decreasing. Therefore, the Russian community is split in halves in the moral estimation of homosexuality and there is no "majority opinion" on this matter.
The attempts to declare immoral open social and cultural self-expression of gays and lesbians only on the basis of the fact that homosexual relations are accused in the holy texts of the world religions are not substantiated, because even the majority of believers are tending today to selective compliance of moral commandments and prohibitions referred to in the Holy Bible and Koran. According to the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (2006), only 33 per cent of Russian people consider applicable all the moral demands of the Church.
On the basis of the aforementioned facts, taking into account the highest value of human rights and liberties, we propose:
1. To the State Duma and legislative authorities in the subjects of Russian Federation:
- to cancel the existing and to prevent new legal acts to be adopted, which may restrict the rights of homosexuals and transgenders for self-expression, free information search and circulation;
- to consider the matter of additions to be made to the current laws and prescribing inclusion of sexual orientation in the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.
2. To the public prosecution authorities of Russian Federation:
- to undertake the measures of response by the public prosecution authorities with respect to the governmental officials and organisations using such illegal terms as "propaganda of homosexuality" and others to restrict legal civil rights of self-expression, information search and circulation, creation of public associations.
3. To the Ombudsman for Human Rights in Russian Federation and ombudsmen for human rights in subjects of Russian Federation:
- to give the public estimate to the practice of restricting rights of self-expression, information search and circulation with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity of individuals and appeals to such restrictions.