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Freedom of expression should not depend on sexual orientation, says PACE Rapporteur

Strasbourg, 17.12.2012 – “The Russian Parliament should remove the consideration of a draft bill prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality among minors from its order of business,” said Håkon Haugli (Norway, SOC), Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Rapporteur on Tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Similar laws introduced so far at local and regional level, have led to arrests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and human rights defenders in St Petersburg and other Russian cities. LGBTs are being directly targeted by these provisions, which clearly violate their freedom of expression and assembly,” added Mr Haugli. “However, due to their vague wording and the lack of a precise definition of promotion of homosexuality, these laws also affect the freedom of the press, since simply reporting on LGBT-related facts and events can be punishable with a fine. Freedom of teaching is also at stake, as discussing the situation of LGBTs in school or university courses risks being considered a breach of the prohibition.” 

“The introduction of local and regional legislation prohibiting so-called propaganda of homosexuality in Moldova, Ukraine and the Russian Federation is a dangerous trend, which has now reached national Parliament level. I am pleased that, following the request made by the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, the Venice Commission has agreed to give its opinion on this issue, which seriously threatens freedom of expression, assembly and association.” 

The Rapporteur concluded by saying “I call on the Russian Parliament to refrain from discussing the draft bill in question and to take into consideration the opinion that the Venice Commission will provide on the issue.”