EU concerned over Russia's 'gay propaganda' ban

Brussels, Jan 31 (IANS/RIA Novosti) EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has expressed concern about a Russian bill making "homosexual propaganda" among minors an administrative offence.

"The implementation of this law could reinforce discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and intersex people as well as all those who support them and their choices, in particular by limiting their freedom of expression and their freedom of association and assembly," the EU official said.

Ashton said Russia should observe the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that freedom of expression and freedom of association for all individuals should be protected.

The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly approved the bill in its first reading Jan 26. Just one deputy voted against the bill and one abstained, while 388 voted for it.

The bill would levy fines for "homosexual propaganda" of up to $16,000 for legal entities, while individuals and officials could face fines of around $160 and $1,600 respectively.

Local legislatures in several Russian regions, including St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk, have already passed a similar law.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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