From Russia, with love.

2014-07-28 20:30

On 03 January 2011, the law “On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development”[1] was signed into law by Dmitry Medvedev, then President of the Russian Federation.

According to Russian Federation media outlets, the law was “aimed at protecting children from destructive, traumatizing information influence, as well as information capable of cultivating vicious propensities in a child.”[2]

The usual suspects, such as information pertaining to inter alia pornographic material, containing explicit language, and promoting drug use, qualify as information restricted or banned for  dissemination among children.

“The Law establishes mandatory classification of content. Prior to the beginning of content turnover to the public, such content must be classified by the manufacturer or distributor. Turnover of any content banned or restricted for dissemination among children is, with certain exemptions, no longer allowed without appropriate labeling.”[3]

The aforementioned process is achieved by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media “Roskomnadzor”, which monitors approximately five thousand media outlets on a weekly basis, in order to ensure legal compliance.

In essence, the law purported to create a safe and healthy social and media climate for present day Russian youth, enforced through legislatively enabled media filtering.

On 29 June 2013, the above-mentioned law was amended to include “spreading information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual behaviour among children, suggesting this behaviour is attractive and making a false statement about the socially equal nature of traditional and non-traditional relationships.”

The amendment, which has become more commonly known as the “anti-gay propaganda law”, was met with widespread criticism from the international community and LGBTI activists alike, for its stigmatization of homosexual normativity.

Unlike other anti-homosexual legislation which is primarily aimed at the criminal sanctioning of homosexual behaviour, the Russian law possesses a deeper psychology and a unique evil which distinguishes it from its legislative counterparts and poses a far greater threat to the promotion of LGBTI equality, in that it explicitly identifies homosexual behaviour as “non traditional”  and inferior to heterosexual behaviour.

Furthermore, it is aimed at the prevention of dissemination of information equating heterosexual and homosexual behaviour amongst a vital sector of society, the youth, thereby creating a social climate which lends itself to the stigmatization of the LGBTI community and perpetuates a culture of silence within present and future generations.

All of the above, shamelessly performed under a law which is painted as a defender of traditional family values.

In his recent State of the Nation address, Vladmir Putin waxed lyrical on the import of traditional family values stating that, "This destruction of traditional values from above not only entails negative consequences for society, but is also inherently anti-democratic because it is based on an abstract notion and runs counter to the will of the majority of people,".

Very simply, Vladmir Putin’s conservative sentimentality in respect of traditional family values may be attributed to inter alia the political support he garners from religious quarters whom remain opposed to the plight of LGBTI equality, the Russian majority, in addition to internal factors and conflict relating to Western ideals on the one hand, and Russian traditionalism on the other.

The unfortunate result is the politicization of matters which do not qualify as objects of political debate and the corresponding siphoning of emotions of a majority, in order to further a political agenda, and detract from matters which actually concern the majority of citizens.

In Russia, the aforementioned politicization has translated into violence, discrimination and persecution of a minority on the basis of their sexual orientation.

An apparently small price to pay, for political gain that is.

[1]Federal Lawof Russian Federationno. 436-FZ of 2010-12-23

[2] http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/1580

[3] http://eng.rkn.gov.ru/mass-communications/on_protecting_children_from_information_harmful_to_their_health_and_development/

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