Russian Government Sets New Criteria for Banning "Gay Propaganda"

Since  Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial law earlier in 2013 imposing stiff penalties for anyone convicted of distributing "gay propaganda", the law has generated international outrage and targeted gay and lesbian rights groups across Russia.    After the law was upheld by Russia's Supreme Court in October,  government censors released revised criteria for any online material that purportedly endangers minors.  

Russian bloggers are wary of publishing any material that might be branded illegal under the new guidelines published in a report titled, "Criteria of Internet Content Harmful for Children’s Health and Development."   The report which was released on December 2 designates any information published online as being "systematically disseminated" and punishes anyone deemed to be releasing "false information."

The report reads, in part, that "to qualify information as propaganda, it is necessary to establish that the author of the information wishes to influence public opinion, that the dissemination of the information is of a systematic nature, and that the disseminated information contains false information."     According to the federal agency charging with overseeing online content,  children and teenagers can have their values influenced by:

  1. Manipulating facts and statistical data to discredit the traditional family model, propagating alternative models of domestic relations, and presenting them as permissible under certain circumstances
  2. Using vivid images to provoke “intense emotional reactions” that discredit the traditional family model and propagate alternative models of domestic relations.
  3. Selectively depicting alternative models of behavior, “hiding all the negative aspects of these models, and showing only the positives.”
  4. Influencing the self-conception and self-identity of teenagers, “exploiting their interest in sex,” and luring them into homosexuality with “colorful previews.”

Among the things now classified as "gay propaganda" by the Russian government:

  • Arguing that traditional families don’t meet the needs of modern society or the modern individual.  "Traditional family" being defined as an opposite-sex couple raising children together. 
  • Information (contained in either images or prose) that justifies and (or) otherwise vindicates the acceptability of “alternative family relations.”   This includes "out-of-context" statistics or stories about children adopted by gay or lesbian couples which might lead teenagers to conclude that same-sex couples are "no worse than straight couples at coping with parental responsibilities.”
  • Using “intense emotional images” to discredit traditional family models and propagate alternative family models.  This largely includes ANY attempt at portraying same-sex couples raising children in a favourable way.
  • Information that contains “images of behavior associated with the denial of the traditional family model” that promotes gay relationships.  Any representation of gay or lesbian couples displaying "non-traditional sexual relations" is now illegal.
  • Instructions on how to experiment with gay sex.
  • Depicting gay people as role models.   This includes any mention of famous Russians who were homosexual despite this being common knowledge. 
  • The final "catch-all: category is Anything that either “approves or encourages” gay people in their homosexuality.   Given that this is poorly defined,  virtually any content which might be deemed offensive by the Russian government is now illegal and subject to prosecution.. 

As the Sochi Olympics draw closer, the number of arrests over the new law will likely provoke further international condemnation and increasing pressure on Vladimir Putin's government.   How the law is applied and who will be targeted remains to be seen.

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