Russia Arrests 2 on 'Pro-Gay Propaganda' Charges
Two Russian men have been arrested for illegally engaging in 'pro-gay propaganda,' in the first-ever enforcement of a controversial new law that bans making statements supporting homosexuality in public.
Police in St. Petersburg have arrested the pair as they were standing in a central district of Russia's second-largest city and holding up placards reading "Homosexuality is normal.", DPA reported.
"This St Petersburg law banning favourable comments about homosexuality is a shame. This law is absolutely discriminatory and it takes away the right to freedom of expression and assembly from citizens of non-traditional orientations," said Tatyana Lokshina, spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch.
The pair's protest in front of St Petersburg's Palace of Youth Creativity, a government-run center for art displays and musical performances, was intended to force a judicial challenge of the law, Lokoshina said, according to an Interfax news agency report.
A new city code that went into effect on February 29 stipulates fines for persons who "propagandize non-traditional lifestyles" in a public space.
The two men face fines equivalent to 170 dollars each for violating the city ordinance, and possible additional penalties for breaking national law banning demonstrations in a public area without official sanction, the Interfax report said.
Supporters of the St Petersburg city law banning public statements in favour of alternative lifestyles have said it is necessary in order to promote traditional Russian values. Human rights groups have said the law violates personal freedoms guaranteed in the Russian constitution.
Russia's national legislature the Duma currently is considering a bill which, if passed, would make public support of homosexuality or lesbianism illegal across the country.
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