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NIKOLAI Alexeyev, a leading Russian gay rights advocate, announced that he would file a hatred incitement suit against Yelena Mizulina, one of the architects of a bill passed by the State Duma on Tuesday.

The bill, which criminalises "homosexual propaganda", carries heavy fines for violations. It passed with 436 votes in the 450-seat lower house, the Duma. One deputy abstained and no one voted against.

Said Alexeyev:

I will personally file an application with the Office of the Prosecutor General to prosecute Mizulina for the incitement of hatred and hostility … Moreover, I'm going to bring in action at the Hague tribunal for crimes against humanity in Russia in connection with the genocide of the LGBT community.

If signed into law, Tuesday's bill would serve to raise social tensions, he argued.

It would lead to more homophobic murders and more suicides among children because of the propaganda of non-acceptance by the entire society of a specific social group.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was beaten and arrested four times for participating in successive Moscow Gay Pride parades, from 2007 to 2011, said in a statement:

This new law is symptomatic of [President] Putin’s increasing authoritarianism and his crackdown on civil society. It violates the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, and the European Convention on Human Rights, which Russia has signed and pledged to uphold.  

Although the law is ostensibly aimed at prohibiting the dissemination of so-called ‘gay propaganda’ to young persons under 18, in reality it will criminalise any public advocacy of gay equality or same-sex HIV education where a young person could potentially see it. 

In practice, gay marches, festivals, posters, magazines, books, welfare advice and safer sex education will be at risk of criminal prosecution. It is a blanket censorship of any public expression of same-sex love or gay human rights.   This is likely to result in the purging of many books, films and plays from libraries, schools, theatres and cinemas, including many classic works of art and literature.   It is one of the harshest laws against gay freedom of expression anywhere in the world.

Other critics say the bill – a nationwide version of laws already in place in several cities including Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg – would in effect ban all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals.

Said Viktoria Malyasova, 18, who was protesting against the bill outside the Duma:

There is already enough pressure and violence against gays, and with this law it will only continue and probably get worse. I may not be gay but I came to stand up for my rights and the rights of other people to love whom they want.

The gay rights protesters outside the Duma on Tuesday were far outnumbered by around 200 anti-gay activists who surrounded them, chanting “Russia is not Sodom”, singing Orthodox Christian prayers, crossing themselves and throwing rotten eggs.

Putin, who has embraced the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral authority and harnessed its influence as a source of political support, has championed socially conservative values since starting a new, six-year term in May 2012.

The 60-year-old president denies that there is discrimination against gays, but has criticised them for failing to increase Russia’s population, which has declined sharply since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Mizulina heads the Duma Committee on Problems of Family, Women and Children.

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