Madonna vows to fight anti-gay laws in concert


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The Independent Online

Madonna faces a showdown with the Russian legal system after she promised today to violate a new law that prohibits "homosexual propaganda" in the city of St Petersburg.

The law, which has been passed by the local parliament in St Petersburg as well as in a number of other Russian regions, equates homosexuality with paedophilia and envisages punishment for anyone "promoting" either to minors.

Madonna is due to perform in St Petersburg in August, and gay rights activists had called on her to cancel her Russian shows in protest at the new law.

Today, however, she posted on Facebook that she would go through with the concert in the city, and another concert two days earlier in Moscow, and would make the law a central part of the performance.

"I'm a freedom fighter," wrote the pop singer on her Facebook page. "I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed.”

She defended her decision not to cancel the shows, and said that it would send a stronger message if she went ahead but spoke out against the laws from the stage. "I don't run away from adversity," wrote Madonna. "I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity."

Gay rights groups in Russia were not impressed, however, and said they would organise pickets of the concerts in protest against the "hypocrisy" of Western artists who claimed to stand up for gay rights but were happy to make huge profits from playing concerts in Russia.

Vitaly Milonov, the author of the controversial bill, said today that he would personally attend Madonna's performance in the city to "monitor the moral content of the concert" and make sure that she does not break the law. "If Madonna or one of the organisers of the concert breaks the city law, they will be punished," the local MP told Interfax. "She could be fined up to 5,000 roubles (£100), while the organisers could be fined up to 500,000 roubles".

Homosexuality was only decriminalised in Russia in 1993, and Russian society continues to be largely homophobic. The former mayor of Moscow infamously called homosexuals "satanic", and there has never been an officially sanctioned gay pride march in the country. Previous attempts at demonstrations have usually ended with participants being attacked by skinheads and Orthodox Church activists, or being arrested by riot police.