This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for “nonaggressive” public monitoring of what he described as efforts to promote “nontraditional lifestyles.”
“If there is reason to assume that something is propaganda of values not traditional for us, then public organizations that share the official stance of Russia’s authorities…should build up public control accordingly, but not aggressively,” Putin said during a July 3 videoconference with a “working group” he had set up to draft amendments to the constitution.
One of the more than 200 amendments that Putin signed into law the same day defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman to enshrine the country’s ban on same-sex marriage in the constitution.
In 2013, Russia adopted a law outlawing “gay propaganda” to minors, which bans any content that presents “distorted ideas about the equal social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations.”
During the conference, the head of the Women’s Union of Russia drew Putin’s attention to an ice cream with the brand-name Rainbow, which uses multicolored advertising vaguely reminiscent of the LGBT Pride rainbow flag.
“Even indirectly, such things make our children accustomed to that…flag,” Yekaterina Lakhova said. “It would be very good to have a commission to make sure that those values that we enshrined in our constitution were upheld.”
In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, the vice president of Chistaya Liniya, the company that produces Rainbow ice cream, rejected any association between the product and the LGBT banner.
“It is a delightfully delicious and high-quality ice cream with various colors based on natural dyes,” Armen Beniaminov said, adding: “For us, the rainbow represents the sunshine after rain, the most beautiful natural phenomenon. We don’t see any comparison with the LGBT movement or its symbols.”
At the same July 3 meeting, Putin also mocked the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for flying a rainbow flag to mark LGBT Pride Month, saying the move “revealed something about the people that work there.”
“Yes,” the president said. “We pass a law banning the propaganda of homosexuality among minors. So what? Let people grow up, become adults, and then decide their own destinies.”
Human rights activists say that homophobic hate crimes have increased in Russia since the 2013 law was passed.
Last year, prominent LGBT activist Yelena Grigoryeva was killed in St. Petersburg after appearing on a hit list published by the homophobic group Saw Against LGBT.