Skip work, have sex: Russians celebrate 'day of conception' as sporting community continues to criticise Putin's anti-gay legislation

Couples in the region of Ulyanovsk told to take the day off in order to procreate, while athletes raise concerns over Russia’s homophobic policies

Russia is celebrating its eighth annual ‘day of conception’ as couples in the eastern region of Ulyanovsk are being advised to stay at home to procreate.

Governor of the region Sergey Morozov has urged bosses to allow men and women the 12th of September off work in order to try and reproduce.

In past years prizes have been awarded to couples who give birth in exactly nine months from the unofficial public holiday. In 2012 the winning pair were presented with an apartment, while in 2011 the award was a Jeep.

The regional celebration is part of a gesture to increase Russia’s struggling birth rate.

In 2006, during his televised State of the Nation address, President Vladimir Putin said the most urgent crisis facing Russia was its demographic crisis. At the time, the country’s population was declining by at least 700,000 people a year.

Russia’s demographic looks to have improved, though, with figures released by one of the country’s demographic indicators showing its population consistently increasing from 2006 to 2012, and its external mortality rate dropping by 40% in the last decade.

Fertility campaigns have, however, remained on the Russian agenda despite apparent improvements in the country’s demographic.

In January 2013 the Moscow Times reported that President Putin invited R&B group Boys II Men to perform in Moscow on the coming St. Valentine ’s Day, in a bid to up the libido of Russian couples. The performance did not, ultimately, go ahead.

Meanwhile, Russia’s recently passed anti-gay legislation continues to come under fire from the international sporting community ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

US snowboarder Seth Wescott, a two-time Olympic gold-medal winner, is the latest to denounce the law signed by President Putin making it illegal to spread information about homosexuality to anyone under 18.

“The human rights stuff that's going on, there's a potential for it to be an incredibly negatively-overshadowed Olympics,” he said.

Wescott said he had female friends in snowboarding who he believed should not be discriminated against during the games.

“They're wonderful human beings, and I think for them to be discriminated against is a crime,” he said. “They should be able to be who they are and compete proudly. They represent our country incredibly well and they don't need to be the object of that kind of criticism and negativity.”

The new Russian law prohibits the promotion of “nontraditional” sexual relations, imposing hefty fines on those found guilty and imprisoning non-nationals for up to 15 days.

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