In Brief

Russia to debate banning all public displays of affection between gay people

Proposed law would mean same-sex couples face two weeks in jail for holding hands

Russia is voting this week whether to ban all public displays of affection between people of the same sex.

If passed, the legislation would mean gay couples who kiss or even hold hands in public could face a two-week jail term.

The move is the latest assault on LGBT rights in Russia. In 2013, the country banned "gay propaganda", in effect prohibiting any public speeches, writing or art which equated homosexual relationships to straight ones.

"Homosexuality is a huge threat to every normal person, which can affect children or grandchildren," said Ivan Nikitchuk, the Communist party MP who drafted the bill.

However, speaking to a Russian radio station over the weekend, he said the ban would not apply to women because he believed "women are more reasonable".

Despite claiming that he condemns homophobia, Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to crackdown on what he calls "non-traditional sexual relations", which he says are a corrupting influence on Russia's morality and society.

Human Rights Watch, which says LGBT activists in Russia have been targeted by vigilante groups who act "with impunity", claims the new bill would put the president in an "uncomfortable position". 

Activists had hoped the legislation would disappear from the agenda when it got to the first reading stage, as has happened with similar bills.

"When this draft bill was initiated, it was so incredibly absurd that we were hoping it was going to be one of those initiatives that didn’t get any attention," Polina Andrianova, of the St Petersburg LGBT rights organisation Coming Out, told BuzzFeed News. “But the fact that it’s scheduled for the first reading is a pretty bad sign.”

She also warned that warned that direct protests against the bill could make its passage into law more likely.

"It will give more of a green light to people who are willing to discriminate [and] to beat people up," she said.

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