Vladimir Putin has used the international backlash against Russia’s sweeping anti-gay laws as part of his wider strategy for asserting conservative Russian values against those of the West argues Richard Mole.
Despite the best efforts of President Putin to keep the focus on sport, the Sochi Winter Olympics became a focal point for international criticism of the Russian law banning the spreading of ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’, with global media coverage of the Olympics casting a spotlight on Russia’s anti-gay laws and rise of extreme homophobia in the country.
The law did not initially contain a definition of what constituted propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations – not that this stopped the police from making arrests. But in December the government published the Criteria of Internet Content Harmful for Children’s Health and Development, which listed the following as examples of homosexual propaganda:
- Information that justified the acceptability of alternative family relations, including any statistics or stories about children adopted by gay or lesbian couples, which might lead to the conclusion that same-sex couples are ‘no worse than straight couples at coping with parental responsibilities’;
- ‘Intense emotional images’ aimed at discrediting traditional family models and propagating alternative family models;
- Information that contains ‘images of behaviour associated with the denial of the traditional family model’ which promotes homosexual relationships;
- Depiction of homosexual people as role models, including any mention of famous homosexuals; and
- Anything that ‘approves or encourages’ LGBT people in their homosexuality.
The latter condition is so poorly defined, that it effectively means that any content which may be considered offensive by the Russian government can now be deemed illegal and subject to prosecution.
The international backlash was vocal. (more…)