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Russia Urges Hepatitis Shots For All Travel To 'Gay-ropa'

Supporters of LGBT rights marched in a gay-pride rally in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on June 18.
Supporters of LGBT rights marched in a gay-pride rally in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on June 18.

The Russian government is urging everyone traveling to Europe to first get a vaccination against hepatitis-A.

Russia's consumer-protection agency, Rospotrebnadzor, issued the warning on June 22, citing a June 7 World Health Organization (WHO) report documenting outbreaks of the disease in 15 European countries, as well as the United States and Chile.

The WHO reported 1,173 cases in Europe, 706 cases in Chile, and an unspecified number in the United States.

The WHO bulletin warned that the outbreaks affected "mainly men who have sex with men" and that the countries involved remain "low endemicity countries."

It noted "particular concern" because of numerous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride festivals scheduled for this summer, including the World Pride Festival in Madrid between June 23 and July 2.

The WHO recommended that those attending such events discuss vaccinations and other precautions against sexually transmitted diseases with their physicians before departure.

Russia's Rospotrebnadzor went quite a bit further, recommending hepatitis-A vaccinations for everyone traveling to "the countries of the European region."

The socially conservative government of Russian President Vladimir Putin and its supporters have often sought to portray Western Europe as dangerously hedonistic, creating the epithet "gay-ropa" as a blanket term for the region.

They have portrayed efforts by Western organizations to fight discrimination and promote tolerance in former Soviet countries such as Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine as attempts to undermine "family values."

Russian and international activists have sharply criticized the Russian government in recent weeks over its failure to investigate seriously allegations that gay men were being persecuted, tortured, and even murdered in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya because of their sexual orientation.

On June 20, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a 2013 Russian law banning the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" to minors violates the right to freedom of expression, is discriminatory against gays, and promotes homophobia. The court said the law "served no legitimate public interest."

Russia said it would appeal the court's ruling.

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