For more than a century, March 8 has been considered to be a day of equality of women and men, a day to fight for gender rights. In the Russian Federation (as previously in the USSR), this day is marked by a triumphant celebration – it is not only a day-off, but also a nationwide holiday. However, it is too early for us to celebrate.
The idea of equality and protection of vulnerable groups, including from discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, unfortunately does not find support among Russian legislators. For many years, in spite of numerous recommendations by international organisations, there have not been any realistic attempts to develop and pass neither a universal anti-discrimination law, nor separate bills in this sphere.
Thus, the project of the law on “State guarantees of equal rights and freedoms of men and women and equal opportunities for their realisation” that was introduced in the State Duma in 2003, still has not been implemented. It seems that federal lawmakers do not consider the protection of equality among men and women and development of corresponding guarantees to be important. However, their colleagues in other regions go even further and openly pass discriminative laws. This practice has not escaped St. Petersburg, where at the end of February, a law was passed that was unequivocally perceived by the society to be “homophobic” – a law that imposes accountability for propaganda of “sodomy, lesbianism, transgenderism and pedophilia.”
Despite of protests of international organisations, human rights activists, lawyers and experts, the law on prohibition of “propaganda of homosexualism” was passed by the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly in the third final reading. The amendments that were introduced by the delegates in the course of discussion did not at all clarify their understanding of the term “propaganda”, for which the size of the fine was increased. The “public hearings” that were held in the Legislative Assembly by the initiators of the law resembled a harassment of those, who are against the law, deliberately injected hatred and social strife was present in the atmosphere, allowing one to evaluate the real nature of the law that was provoking hatred and animosity in the society. The “strange” nature of the law was also noted in the official report of the human rights commissioner V.P. Lukin.