Developing

Russia To Debate 'Gay Propaganda' Ban

A law banning so-called "homosexual propaganda" in Russia could be introduced nationally after it is debated in parliament next month.

Critics, who include high-profile stars such as Madonna , say the law - already active in St Petersburg - discriminates against gays.

For the seventh year in a row the gay pride parade has been banned in Moscow but activists challenge the authorities by taking to the streets anyway.

The inevitable arrests have become almost routine. Many are detained for wearing badges bearing pink triangles.

One woman was arrested for holding a packet of coloured felt tip pens, a replacement for the banned rainbow symbol of gay pride.

In Russia 's second city of St Petersburg it is now illegal to "make public actions among minors for the propaganda of homosexuality".

Gay rights activists like former teacher, Grigory Zaritovsky, have called for a veto of the law.

He lost his teaching job when his employers discovered he was gay. They said it was inappropriate for him to work with children.

"Most people in Russia are sane and don't equal homosexuality with paedophilia," he said.

"But there is a part of society that is radically minded, they protest against the gay community - promoting the idea that a gay person is always a paedophile. In their minds it is intrinsically linked."

Some people who hold that view also hold positions of power and influence.

United Russia member Vitaly Milonov introduced the law in St Petersburg - he says to protect the city's children.

"They should not kiss in kindergartens," he says. "They should not come close to a school and kiss each other."

Asked if he thinks gay people would really be interested in doing that, he replies he says: "They are doing this. An activist from one of the Russian homosexual organisations tried to show his posters only near schools, children's libraries or kindergartens."

Madonna, whose upcoming concert in St Petersburg is promoted with posters around the city, has promised to speak out against the law, which she calls a "ridiculous atrocity".

So far it has been used against activists carrying banners that read things like "Homosexuality is not a Perversion".

The interpretation seems to be that promotion of gay rights equals propaganda.

St Petersburg's gay community has expressed its outrage, with many feeling they are simply victims of a crackdown on gays.

Now, any expression of homosexuality has to be confined to gay clubs.

Being homosexual in Russia has never been easy - the future looks set to be even more of a challenge.