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Topics In the News
Passage of Anti-Gay Law in Russia Sparks Calls for Boycott
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 03/01/12
Last updated on: 03/01/12
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Still from a protest video by allout.org.

The passage of an anti-gay law by St. Petersburg's Parliament has sparked a call for a boycott of the city and other Russian destinations. More specifically, the international activist organization AllOut.org has called for tourists to boycott Russia's most popular tourist destination.

The New York Times reports that the February 29, 2012 passage by St. Petersburg's Parliament of a law aimed at eliminating what its backers call "progaganda" in favor of homosexuality has aroused fears of an impending witch hunt aimed at gay people.

The St. Petersburg law is similar to legislation passed elsewhere in Russia, including Arkhangelsk and Ryazan, and to proposals in the federal legislature. It appears to be a reaction to demands by gay rights groups, particularly in St. Petersburg and Moscow, for equal rights, and to agitation from Russia's vehemently homophobic Orthodox Church to vilify gay people.

Under St. Petersburg's new law, which passed the legislature on a vote of 29 to 5, "public actions directed at the propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors" will be punishable with fines of up to $17,000. The law defines propaganda of homosexuality as "the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors," particularly that which could create "a distorted impression" of "marital relations."

Igor Kochetkov, the head of the Russian L.G.B.T. Network, a rights group based in St. Petersburg, called the premise of the law "absurd."

"You can also adopt a law against turning off the light of the sun, but no one has the ability to do this," Mr. Kochetkov said. "Even if someone wanted to, no amount of propaganda is going to turn a heterosexual gay."

"This is a law that can be used, and will be used, to conduct searches of organizations and prevent public actions," he said. "Most importantly, it will be used for official propaganda. Officially homosexuality will be considered illegal, something incorrect and something that cannot be discussed with children. It will create a negative atmosphere in society around gays and lesbians as well as our organizations."

International human rights groups and Western governments had urged legislators not to pass the law, and a few opposition groups in Russia have condemned it.

"I consider this law a provocation intended to divide society over a question that could have been used to teach people understanding," Aleksandr Korbinsky, an opposition member of St. Petersburg's Parliament who voted against the measure, said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

The law is expected to be signed into law by St. Petersburg's governor.

In response to the law, the activist group AllOut.org has issued a powerful video calling for a boycott of St. Petersburg, Russia's most popular tourist destination. The video is set to soaring music by Russia's most famous gay composer, Pyotr Ilich Tchaicovsky.

All Out, which began operations in 2011, is committed to building a truly global community able to respond to moments of crisis and opportunity to advance the lives and freedoms of glbtq people everywhere.

The organization runs multilingual real-time campaigns to inform, educate, and engage the public. It has focused on such issues as the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda, homophobic and transphobic violence in Brazil, and the sterilization requirement to change gender identity on official documents in Sweden.

Its goal is to help the global glbtq movement "achieve in 10 years what might take 30 or more years to accomplish based on current global trends, and to instigate the kinds of fresh and dynamic popular discussions around diversity and LGBT equality that improve and enrich the lives of people everywhere."

The video below eloquently explains the goals of AllOut.org.

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