European Parliament calls on Russia and Ukraine to shelve censorship laws

In two resolutions adopted today, the European Parliament has called once more on Russia and Ukraine to abandon new censorship plans. These draft laws would punish the positive portrayal of LGBT people with both fines and prison sentences.

Ukraine and Russia - ILGA-Europe Rainbow MapIn Russia, as many as nine regions now punish the ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ with fines and imprisonment. Adopted since 2006 and more frequently in the last year, these laws are used to ban gay prides and stop young people receiving positive information about being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

National lawmakers representing United Russia, Vladimir Putin’s party, are now pushing to extend this law to the federal level.

Dmitry Medvedev, currently Prime Minister, declared however that such laws weren’t needed.

Ukraine’s parliament is also about to adopt Bill 8711. The draft law would punish the same actions with fines, and up to 5 years in prison.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Russia and one on Ukraine, both calling on the respective countries to shelve these laws.

The resolutions also underline that the two countries must respect a recent ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee in Fedotova v. Russia, which condemned Russia for limiting freedom of speech in a discriminatory fashion.

Concerning Ukraine, both the European Commission and the Netherlands have said Bill 8711 would be an obstacle to concluding the EU-Ukraine visa-free travel agreement.

Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup, concluded: “I was in Russia and know that Russian people are open-minded, diverse and accepting. Gay and transgender people aren’t a ‘Western import’, just like classical music, literature and opera aren’t a ‘Russian import’: it’s part of both our cultures, we all do it differently but we all do it. Russian and Ukrainian politicians must stop creating dangers out of thin air, and respect everyone’s right to free speech.”

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, reacted: “Both Russia and Ukraine signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenent on Civil and Political Rights. No-one forced them to, and they must now respect their international obligations.”

“The European Union will remain strong in its demands, and will continue supporting the activists who bravely defy these unfair laws.”

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Image credits: ILGA-Europe 2012 Rainbow Map