Foreign Minister Bob Carr has spoken out against an anti-gay law passed in St Petersburg, Russia last month which will see people fined for speaking out about LGBTI issues.
The Australian Embassy in Russia first raised its concerns with the Legislative Assembly of St Petersburg in February and then again in March, once the legislation had been passed.
Carr said the Australian Government is concerned about potential breaches of the human rights of LGBTI people in Russia.
“That is why we asked St Petersburg authorities to consider carefully the implications of this legislation, both when it was before the legislative assembly and after it was passed, and reminded them of international norms which preclude unreasonable restrictions on rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” he said.
“I have been advised by our Embassy that the legislation could result in the censoring of public information on sexual orientation or gender identity. It risks reinforcing prejudice and discrimination.
“It would be a matter for concern if this legislation were used to impinge on the human rights of Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities,” he said.
St Petersburg’s legislature passed its ‘gay propaganda’ law last month.
Before the bill was approved Western Australian ALP senator Louise Pratt co-sponsored a motion in the Senate condemning the laws.
The law stipulates “public activities promoting homosexuality (sodomy and lesbianism), bisexualism and transgender identity” as well as paedophilia among minors fall under the definition of propaganda.
Fines range from approximately $16,000 for individuals deemed to be ‘promoting’ homosexuality, to $160,000 for legal entities.
Vitaly V Milonov, who drafted the law and has previously referred to gay people as “perverts,” accused gay rights activists of waging an aggressive campaign of conversion among Russia’s children with the backing of Western governments.
“This is a declaration of Russia’s moral sovereignty,” Milonov said in televised remarks after the law passed.
St Petersburg is one of three Russian cities to have passed similar laws banning the promotion of gay and trans identities among minors.
“It’s a collapse of the policy of gay groups collaborating with authorities in St Petersburg for several years,” GayRussia and Moscow Pride founder Nikolai Alekseev said in a statement when the law passed.
“GayRussia and Moscow Pride have been fighting against similar laws since 2009 without anyone’s helps. We have always said that this case can only be legally resolved when the UN Human Rights Committee and especially the European Court of Human Rights delivers a binding verdict against similar laws in Ryazan region in the case initiated by activists of GayRussia and Moscow Pride who were harshly criticised for their actions against these laws by organisations in St Petersburg.”