Russia prepares to toughen anti-gay law in conservative push
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Russian lawmakers Monday called for the toughening of a strict anti-gay law and the Kremlin ordered expensive patriotic education projects as Moscow presses with a conservative drive at home while its troops fight in Ukraine.
The lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, held a consultation session on amendments to the 2013 law that bans exposing minors to what authorities deem "gay propaganda."
The draft bill would take it further by also banning the "denial of family values" and the "promotion of non-traditional sexual orientations" to all ages.
Lawmakers argued the law needs to be toughened amid Russia's intensified confrontation with the West and as its armed forces battle next-door.
Alexander Khinstein, a senior lawmaker and the head of the Duma's information committee, said the Ukraine offensive had given the proposed law "new relevance."
"The special operation takes place not only on the battlefield, but also in the minds and souls of people," Khinstein said.
Konstantin Malofeyev, a banker and conservative media baron, told the Duma hearing that passing the law is part of Russia's war effort.
"The war is not only on the battlefield. It is also in the smart-phones of our children, in cartoons and films," Malofeyev said.
"Our enemy really holds the propaganda of sodomy as the core of its influence," he said.
The amendments are expected to be approved this autumn, according to Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.
Volodin said the law would "protect" Russians.
"It is not to limit rights, but protect them from propaganda," he said.
On the same day President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to assign 3.9 billion rubbles ($63 millions) per year to patriotic education programmes.
According to the Kremlin website, this should include "digital content and multimedia products aims at the patriotic and spiritual education of children and youth".
Under Putin, Russian schools have taught a pro-state version of history that brushes over Stalinist crimes while focusing on Russia's military successes.
Since the Russian leader sent troops to Ukraine in late February, the government introduced a new subject in schools -- "Conversations about what's important" -- that is meant to instill patriotism.