Russian LGBT People Could Be Arrested For 'Coming Out' in Public Under New Legislation

Russian parliamentarians are drafting a bill that could mean LGBT people would be fined or face jail for "coming out" or making a "public confession of their non-traditional sexual orientation," state-owned newspaper Izvestia reported on Friday.

The bill is intended as an amendment to the already controversial law banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors. The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, passed the original law in 2013 that has been labelled "a tool of discrimination [that] legitimizes anti-LGBT violence" by Human Rights Watch.

According to the proposed amendment to the law, people who are defined as having "non-traditional sexual orientation" could be fined 5,000 roubles ($80) for "demonstrating [their] own expressed sexual preferences in public places." If the same is done in schools, cultural establishments or government buildings, this would be punishable by up to 15 days in jail.

Duma members Ivan Nikitchuk and Nikolay Arefiev, both of whom are members of the Communist Party, drafted the bill saying they believe it will strengthen Russia's public morals. "I believe that the problem we have raised is one of the most pressing and topical issues as it addresses the social ills of our society and deals with the moral education of the next generation," Nikitchuk told Izvestia. "In the biological sense, not reproducing is the same as death and in that sense homosexuality is a lethal threat for the whole of humankind."

Nikitchuk told the Russian daily that he believes the existing framework of laws regarding LGBT people is insufficient.

A recent poll by Russia's independent Levada Center found that the desire to ostracise LGBT people had increased in Russia since the fall of Communism. 37 percent of respondents said LGBT people should be "isolated from society," an increase from 28 percent who thought this in 1989, and higher than the number of Russians who thought the same about drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes. 21 percent said they wanted to "liquidate" LGBT people.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the idea that Russia had problems with anti-LGBT hate crime, telling U.S. broadcaster CBS that the issue had been "deliberately exaggerated" by foreign media and there was "no persecution at all" in Russia.