The propaganda law guide


On December 5th, 2022, president Vladimir Putin of Russia banned propaganda, demonstration, and imposition of information about nontraditional relations and sex change. The new law prohibits LGBT propaganda among all Russian citizens across the internet, media, advertising, books, and cinema. In this extensive guide, we take you through how the new legislation is going to be implemented, what penalties could follow from it, how it will affect the lives of trans people, and cite various government officials, lawyers, and human rights advocates. 

What is the law about?

Russian authorities have introduced a full ban on propaganda of nontraditional relations and paedophilia, as well as promotion of any information about the LGBTQ+ community and gender transition among all ages through media, the internet, advertising, books, and cinema. 

While criminal liability for a repeat violation of the ban has not been introduced yet, the Duma deputies could soon put forward a separate draft bill that would effect changes to the Criminal Code.  

Presidents order

The law in State Duma

Legislation timeline:

October 17 the bill is introduced to State Duma

October 27 the bill passes the first reading

November 23 the bill passes the second reading

November 24 the bill passes the third reading

November 30 the bill is approved by the Federation Council

December 5 the bill is signed into law by President Vladimir Putin (the law is brought into force the same day)

What is the penalty?

For LGBT propaganda:

  • 50 to 400 thousand roubles ($800 to $3000) for individuals;

  • 100 to 800 ($1600 to $6000)  thousand roubles for government officials

  • 800 thousand to 5 million roubles ($6000 to $80000) or suspension of activity up to 90 days for legal entities

How will the law be enforced?

Its hard to say. The main issue is the vague wording and the lack of definitions for nontraditional relations, propaganda, and imposition of information that could create interest in change of sex or homosexual relations. Due to the lack of specifications in the law, the interpretation of it will be up to individual courts. 

Roskomnadzor, Russias internet regulator, will search for propaganda online. Such content can be blocked on social media without a court decision. 

Coming Outs defence attorney and lawyer Ksenia Mikhailova: 

How quickly will the law be implemented and who will be affected by it first?

Only once the law is implemented will it become clear what exactly falls under the ban.  

We can expect the first cases to appear within a week or two. The easiest way to enforce it is to block Internet resources. I believe that LGBTQ+ initiatives and individuals who talk about LGBTQ+ issues online will receive notifications from Roskomnadzor soon enough. If they refuse to take the flagged content down, their pages could be blocked. 

Is there anything we know for certain about how the law will be implemented?

Its hard to say how widely the law will be applied and what primary direction it will take. It could be administrative liability in the form of fines or blocking access to certain resources. 

What doesnt fall under the ban?

There are no grounds for LGBTQ+ clubs and bars to be shut down. There is no reason to be afraid to talk about someone who helps LGBTQ+ people. The law in its current form does not prohibit the existence of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups or any other LGBTQ+ organizations per se. It doesnt put any restrictions on LGBTQ+ research regardless of the authors opinion on the issue. Moreover, the law doesnt stop LGBTQ+ people from talking about their sexuality or gender identity with their family, friends, acquaintances, or colleagues. 

Lawyer and trans rights advocacy project expert Tatiana Glushkova: 

Who is at the highest risk of being targeted by the law?

First of all, the law will be used against vocal trans rights activists. Besides, it will cause a lot of trouble for publishers and booksellers, as well as game distributors and other such industries, including film distributors and advertisers. 

Is it now forbidden to be an openly trans person?

Being open in your personal life will hardly become reason for prosecution, unlike, for example, online publications accessible to minors.  

Does the law put any restrictions on legal change of gender marker? What about gender affirming hormonal therapy and surgery?

It does not. The law isnt really about that at all. What is more, it doesnt stop trans youth from receiving the help they need either (currently, they are unable to receive a gender recognition certificate, but they can receive the F 64.2 diagnosis (Gender identity disorder of childhood) and be prescribed gender affirming hormone therapy). However, the law will adversely impact the availability of such help. 

Memorial Human Rights Organization lawyer Tamilla Imanova:

Ill mention the three most harmful points out of many:

  1. Unpredictability. As always, the law fails to explain what LGBT propaganda or, to quote one of the clauses, information and (or) public displays aimed to promote nontraditional sexual attitudes even mean. Therefore, in Moscow such propaganda may be found in advertising or distribution of a movie or book that contains depictions of non-heterosexual relationships, while in Mahachkala it would include young men wearing makeup at a fashion show.  
  2. A heavy blow to the safety of the community and its allies. The law itself shows Russian citizens that the state is against the existence of LGBTQ+ people. Hence, if a queer person faces discrimination or physical violence in public because of their sexuality, they wont only be unable to go to the police and report a hate crime. With the new law, they will also risk facing an enormous fine, because if they somehow made their sexuality known to the abuser, it could be considered a public display, or propaganda. The same concerns human rights NGOs who publicly support the LGBTQ+ community and media outlets that report offenses against the community. All of it could be notoriously regarded as propaganda. 
  3. Something I find especially abominable is the fact that throughout the wording of the law, mentions of nontraditional sexuals relations and sex change (I wont even mention how hateful such language is just yet) are always followed by paedophilia. In other words, the author of the legislation has consciously equated the LGBTQ+ community to the community of people who suffer from the psychiatric (paraphilic) disorder of paedophilia. 

Human rights advocates and activists on the new law:

Human rights advocate and co-founder of You are not alone project Alena Popova: I am adamantly opposed to the new gay propaganda law and I want all people to feel safe. The ban on LGBT propaganda is a huge problem. Suffice it to say, this vulnerable group is now in an even more vulnerable position. There are many cases of sexual orientation discrimination and violence. Now the police wont do anything but humiliate LGBTQ+ people and even use force against them. 

Institute for Law and Public Policy lawyer Ivan Brikulskiy: Lawmakers have opened the Pandora box. Ambiguous language of the law will lead to its unpredictable application. In turn, the unpredictable application will lead to abuse of power. And abuse of power inevitably leads to violation of rights. 

Trans activist and T-Action initiative group co-coordinator Ekaterina Messorosh: LGBTQ+ organizations will now be unable to plan their actions for longer than two weeks ahead because we never know whats going to happen tomorrow. For now, we will continue our work as before, but we understand that, once the bill has passed, our social media could be blocked at any point. And its clear to me how all these new oppressive laws promote self-censorship. Organizations wont wait to be targeted before going underground, thus becoming less visible online and in public spaces. 

HIV activist Yana Kolpakova: My hair stood on end when that LGBT propaganda law was first proposed back in June. It will drastically complicate HIV prevention among this vulnerable group. 

Head of Memorial legal assistance program Natalia Sekretaryova: This new law is yet another display of unspeakable cruelty. Its nothing but discriminatory and dehumanizing. The law demands erasure of all LGBTQ+ people from all public spaces. It restricts all work, research, and culture that concerns the taboo topic. Some publishing houses have already declared being at risk of shutting down because of this new law. 

Politicians and government officials on the new law:

State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on the introduction of the bill: Such initiatives are here to protect individuals, protect their rights, protect them from propaganda. Not limit, but protect. We have to guarantee our citizens the right to start a family and reproduce. We are protecting [Russia] from the darkness that is taking over the world. Legislative initiatives should have been introduced a long time ago. 

State Duma deputy Alexander Khinshtein on how the law should be enforced: Theres no propaganda of paedophilia in Vladimir Nabokovs Lolita. In the book, the condition isnt presented as something positive. Not one of the readers would want to take the protagonists place. The book Summer in a Pioneers Tie, however, is another story. 

Head of Roskomnadzor Vadim Subbotin on the meaning of propaganda (this definition didnt make it into the legislation): It means using certain tools of influence, promotion, and imposition of information in order to create a warped positive attitude towards destructive phenomena. A kind of brutally forced outlook on certain values and morals.