Russian Duma passes law banning 'gay propaganda'

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Media captionThe BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports on the violent clashes between gay rights campaigners and anti-gay activists outside the Russian parliament

Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, has passed a law imposing heavy fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under 18.

The measure was passed unanimously and will become law when approved by the upper house and President Vladimir Putin, a virtual formality.

Gay rights campaigners clashed with anti-gay activists outside the Duma.

The lower house also passed a bill imposing up to three years in jail on those who offend religious believers.

The law comes in the wake of the imprisoning of members of the punk band Pussy Riot for performing an anti-Putin protest in an Orthodox cathedral in February 2012.

Two band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, are currently serving two-year jail terms.

The new law on "offending religious feelings of the faithful" will also take effect after approval by the upper house and the president.

Street clashes

Violence between rival protesters spread onto Moscow's central street on Tuesday, reports the BBC's Steve Rosenberg in the capital.

Image caption Orthodox believers demonstrated their support for the new law on religion

Gay rights campaigners were attacked and there were no police to stop the violence, says our correspondent. When one group ran into a shop to take refuge, their attackers waited and then ran in to find them.

Under the new law, private individuals promoting "homosexual behaviour among minors" face fines of up to 5,000 roubles (£100; $155) while officials risk paying 10 times that amount. Businesses and schools could be fined up to 500,000 roubles.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment is high.

A recent poll found that nearly half of Russians believe that the gay and lesbian community should not enjoy the same rights as other citizens.

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