The Legislative Assembly in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg has passed a bill banning propaganda to minors about homosexuality or pedophilia.
Under the bill, which passed its third and final reading on February 29, individuals convicted of promoting homosexuality or pedophilia among minors could be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($172) and organizations could be fined up to 500,000 rubles ($17,200).
The bill must be signed into law by the governor.
Yury Gavrikov, the head of St. Petersburg's Ravnopravie (Equal Rights) NGO, which promotes the rights of sexual minorities, described the measure as "unacceptable."
"I think it's absurd to tie sexual violence against children to homosexuality and related information campaigns," Gavrikov said. "Linking such issues is unacceptable as well as incompetent." (see full interview with Gavrikov here
Tatyana Lokshina, deputy chief of the Moscow office of the U.S.-based NGO Human Rights Watch, described the proposed law as discriminatory.
Lokshina said the bill "directly contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights and this law is unacceptable in principle. It is discriminatory and it severely restricts freedom of expression."
The author of the bill, legislator Vitaly Milonov, said that if the bill became law, he would ask prosecutors to investigate a recent concert by the German rock band Rammstein, which he said contained elements of "open, offensive pornography."
He insisted the law was not intended to infringe civil liberties.
Lokshina urged the higher courts in Moscow to declare the St. Petersburg initiative unconstitutional if it is adopted.
"If Russia considers itself a democratic country committed to law and human rights, if Russia really considers itself to be a part of Europe, there should be no such law either on the regional level or, of course, on the federal level," she said.
Some lawmakers criticized the bill for what they see as its weak stand against pedophilia. Grigory Yavlinsky, a founder of the liberal Yabloko party, said it was "simply wrong" to set a fine of 5,000 rubles for promoting pedophilia to children.
Aleksei Kovalyov, head of the A Just Russia faction in the Legislative Assembly, called the bill "a victory for pedophiles" because if someone is fined under the bill, it's not possible to file criminal charges against them.
With Interfax, ITAR-TASS, and Dozhd TV reporting