Updated: Thursday, 06 February 2014 03:21 | By Agence France-Presse

UN watchdog urges Russia to repeal 'gay propaganda' law

Russia should repeal its controversial legislation banning gay "propaganda" because it is fuelling discrimination and violence against young homosexuals and their families, the UN's child rights watchdog said Wednesday.


UN watchdog urges Russia to repeal 'gay propaganda' law

Gay rights activists take part in a joint opposition rally called, "March against Hatred" in the Russia's second city of St. Petersburg, on November 2, 2013 - by Olga Maltseva

Rather than protecting children, the laws "encourage stigmatisation of and discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons, including children and children living in LGBT families," said Maria Herczog of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

"The very vague definition of propaganda leads to the targeting and ongoing persecution of the country's LGBT community, including abuse, violence, in particular against underage rights activists," she told reporters.

Herczog's comments came as the 18-member UN panel of independent experts from around the globe issued a report on Russia's respect for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in which it urged the country to repeal the laws.

The legislation, signed by President Vladimir Putin last year, has provoked international criticism and protests over Russia's hosting of the Winter Olympics, including calls for a boycott.

The committee also called for an end to "attempts to diagnose transsexuality as psychiatric disease".

By coincidence, the report was made public the same day the founder of a Russian help website for LGBT teenagers said she had been charged under the legislation, the third person charged under the law.

The UN committee also questioned a blanket ban on US citizens adopting Russian children -- the so-called "Dima Yakovlev" law of 2012, named after a baby who died of heat stroke after his American adoptive family left him for hours in a car.

The law has been seen as a response to a US law of the same year that imposed sanctions on Russian officials involved in a tax fraud case exposed by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in custody in 2009.

The committee said Russia should avoid a "political agenda" and that adoptions should be considered on a case-by-case basis with proper screening of potential parents.

"The law has deprived numbers of children in care institutions, for instance children with disabilities, from the prospect of adoption and the opportunity to live in a family environment," said Herczog.

"We all know that inter-country adoption is a very controversial issue, but in this case, this is not serving the best interest of children."

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