Scottish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Intersex (LGBTI) organisations have launched an appeal to Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, the Rt Hon George Grubb, to oppose discrimination against homosexuality.
They hope the Lord Provost can use the city's 'twinning arrangement' with St. Petersburg to urge that city not to pass a bill that would threaten the LGBTI community's freedom of expression and right to protest.
If enacted, the bill would allow the authorities to impose fines of up to the equivalent of £1,000 for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.”
This would mean a prohibition on the freedom of assembly and expression for LGBTI groups anywhere that children might be present. Any public event held by or on behalf of the LGBTI community would be practically ruled out.
Furthermore, the new law would curtail the publication of any material relating to LGBTI rights or providing assistance or advice, as well as informative leaflets and publication in the media and on the internet.
Shabnum Mustapha, Amnesty International's Programme Director in Scotland, said: “Throughout Russia, we have witnessed a clampdown on freedom of expression of LGBTI individuals, NGOs and activists.
“There has been harassment, intimidation and interference with gay prides and other public events; as well as physical violence and the detention of peaceful demonstrators by the police.
“To seek to 'legitimise' this discrimination and oppression of the LGBTI community through legislation is appalling.”
Nathan Sparkling, NUS Scotland’s LGBT Officer, said: “Legislation such as this will only further marginalise LGBTI people and must be stopped – in St. Petersburg and throughout Russia.
“The notion that Russia’s youth are somehow being converted through ‘propaganda’ would be laughable if the repercussions weren’t so dangerous.”
Local LGBTI rights groups have condemned the law, saying it will legally protect the banning of any actions they undertake, including the distribution of information leaflets or even actions against homophobia.
Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “The twinning of St. Petersburg and Edinburgh provides the Lord Provost with a legitimate platform from which to raise grave concerns about the treatment of the LGBTI community and to call on the Governor of St. Petersburg to oppose the legislation. Failure to do so would be tantamount to condoning this draconian and extremely harmful legislation.”
Amnesty International Scotland, The Equality Network, NUS Scotland LGBT, and Scottish Youth Parliament are among the organisations taking the campaign to the Lord Provost.