Opinion

September 13, 2013 (realwomenofcanada.ca) – In June, the Russian Parliament (Duma) unanimously passed a law, by liberals, conservatives, and socialists, that banned propaganda normalizing homosexuality. In addition to the legislature, it had the support of 86 percent of the Russian people.

It was not borne out of hostility towards persons with same-sex orientation, as claimed by some. Rather, it was drafted with the intent of protecting the well-being of Russian children. It is in line with the European Convention on Human Rights standards and European jurisprudence.

The law was an amendment to a previous law, passed in December 2010, aimed at protecting children and family life in Russia. The law prohibits the propagation (not the behavior) of any activity aimed at harming the psychological or physical well-being of minors and prohibits propaganda promoting alternative sexual lifestyles, along the lines of the promotion of the use of intoxicating drugs, alcohol, gambling and the use of offensive language.

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The word propagation is carefully defined and limited by the legislation.

The law is administrative, not criminal. (Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993.) The law does not permit any interference in the private lives of homosexuals or authorize the arbitrary detention or arrests of homosexuals, as so loudly proclaimed by gay lobbyists.

According to contacts in Moscow, there are both openly gay bars in Moscow and gays and lesbians on TV each day. This law has been endorsed by 103 human rights organizations from 33 countries, which have signed a statement in support of it.

Reason for the Law

This law is in accordance with other recent initiatives taken by the Russian government to protect the family, which is in deep crisis. About a third of Russian children are born out of wedlock; more than half of marriages fail; alcoholism is rampant; Russia has the highest rate of abortion in the world (officially, there are more than one million abortions each year). More than two million children are “civil orphans,” living adrift from their families.

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Russia has passed this most recent legislation because its leaders are deeply concerned about the demographic winter in Russia. In recent years, Russia is burying more citizens than are being born. President Vladimir Putin has stated, “Without exaggeration, the central problem of contemporary Russia is demography, strengthening the family, [and] increasing the birth rate”.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has stated, “The overall decline in population, reducing its density to the parameters of almost three times less than the global average would result in weakening of political, economic and military influence of Russia in the world, and the possibility of additional claims to the territory of Russia.”

Among Russia’s concerns are the vast numbers of Chinese on its southeastern border, and its unsettled southern borders where many of Russia’s former satellite countries are located. Today, the only real source for Russia to sustain itself economically is its oil exports. Russia is in need of a larger population to sustain itself economically by way of taxation, and increased productivity. Hard-headed pragmatism was required. Although REAL Women does not support all of Russia’s decisions, we do support its family initiatives.

The abortion law in Russia was restricted last year for the first time since the fall of Communism. More such abortion legislation is expected this fall. Pregnancy centers have been established in every major center in Russia, and generous funding is provided to pregnant women (single and married), both prior to and subsequent to giving birth. The president of the pro-life movement in Russia is Svetlana Medvedeva, wife of the Prime Minister.

In June 2011, Russia held its first Demographic Summit at the Russian State Social University, attended by more than 500 demographers, economists, sociologists, religious figures and societal leaders, such as Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russia’s National Railways. During the discussions, it was agreed that the breakdown of the family in Russia is a large contributing factor to the current demographic problem.

The World Congress of Families will be meeting in the Kremlin in September 2014. The conference is called “Large Families – Future of Humanity.”

Not everyone will agree with the Russian solutions to its very serious societal problems. However, the amendment to this law and other family initiatives are directed at protecting children and restoring family life in Russia. This is contrary to the prevailing characterization of these initiatives as being anti-gay. The latter is both a misleading and inaccurate assessment of the situation.

Gwendolyn Landolt is the National Vice-President of REAL Women of Canada.

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