Russian Communists call for 15 days in jail for coming out as gay

Russian riot policemen detain a gay and LGBT rights activist during an unauthorized gay rights rally in central Moscow on May 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

Moscow (AFP) - Two senior Russian Communist MPs on Friday presented a draft bill calling for people who come out as gay to serve up to 15 days behind bars.

Ivan Nikitchuk and Nikolai Arefyev are proposing a fine of up to 5,000 rubles ($80) for people who publicly say they are gay.

Those who come out in educational institutions or government offices should serve up to 15 days in police cells, they say.

Homophobia is still widespread in Russia, with 37 percent telling the Levada independent polling agency in May that homosexuality is an illness, and 18 percent saying it should be punished by law.

The MPs told the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia they came up with the measure because a hugely controversial ban on "gay propaganda" to minors signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 was not proving effective.

But the proposal appeared extreme even for Russia and was not expected to get passed by parliament.

Even Saint Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, who is among the strongest backers of the existing gay propaganda law, questioned the need for new measures.

"We can't sentence people to 15 days just for admitting (their sexual orientation)," Milonov told AFP.

"Of course if it's propaganda, that's a different matter."

The Communist lawmakers said they plan to submit the bill to parliament later Friday.

Nikitchuk, the 71-year-old deputy head of the parliament's natural resources committee, said the bill would only apply to gay men.

"We think women are more reasonable people and more able to manage their emotions," Nikitchuk told the Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei radio station.

"So far, we're not touching women."

"Lesbians, the threat has lifted, you can reveal yourselves," opposition politician Alexei Navalny joked on Twitter.

The proposed legislation prompted criticism both from supporters and opponents of gay rights.

"Chewing over this topic of homosexuality is a breach of ethical norms. I'm sure the draft won't get through parliament," pro-Kremlin United Russia party senator Alexei Alexandrov told RIA Novosti.

"Those interested in this topic are going too far. I would advise them -- both homosexuals and homophobes -- to leave it in peace."

In the USSR "this topic was closed, it was not discussed" by Communists, he added.

Writing on the website, one commentator, Yana, said: "They just keep tightening the screws ... Soon we'll all be obliged to form traditional families and procreate.

"Those who refuse will be sent to fell timber," she added, referring to prison camps.

Under the Soviet Union, homosexuality was a criminal offence punishable by prison.