Sunday, 4 December 2011

Deputy prime minister backtracks over homosexuality rhetoric

Controversy is washing around a ban in some Russian cities on promoting homosexuality and pedophilia, as Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak says the press misunderstood him.

A bitterly disputed bill, equating homosexuality with pedophilia and banning “promoting” them around children must go national, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told press on Friday. The law has passed its first reading in St. Petersburg and is already in place in Arkhangelsk and Ryazan.

Gay rights groups and human rights activists were up in arms over linking intercourse between consenting same-sex adults with intercourse with children. But Kozak says that he was misunderstood and that, despite the law’s most high-profile clause, he was only condemning the promotion of pedophilia.

Kozak told reporters in St. Petersburg on Friday that promoting sexual minorities was a “disgusting thing to do” and followed Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, in saying that they should consider banning it across the country.

Human rights activists and gay rights campaigners were subsequently in uproar. “It is essential to see the difference,” Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Russia, told Interfax. “Pedophilia is a punishable crime, while the rights of sexual minorities are defended in the Russian constitution,”

But his press-secretary Ilya Dzhus said Kozak’s condemnatory words referred not to homosexuality but to pedophilia alone. “The question to Dmitry Nikolayevich Kozak was about his reaction to the ban on propaganda of pedophilia among minors,” Dzhus told .

“He called that disgusting and called for a ban on any attempts to promote pedophilia, alone,” Dhuks said.

But his colleagues in high places do not see the need to differentiate and made it clear their sights were set on gay people as much as on pedophiles.

St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko said that a bill to ban promoting both homosexuality and pedophilia would “serve general public morals. There is nothing more disgusting than propaganda of these things,” has said.

Ptviyenko had earlier said that the ban would be put in place across the whole country and that ruling party United Russia, closely aligned with both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was prepared to introduce a ban on promoting “the propaganda of homosexuality.”

The St. Petersburg ban would fine individuals between 1,000 and 3,000 rubles for infringing the ban and between 10,000 to 50,000 rubles for corporate entities.

Russia classified homosexuality as a mental illness until 1999 and decriminalized homosexuality between men in 1993, but homophobic attitudes remain.

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