Russia: Bill violates trans rights, intensifying LGBTQ+ crackdown


A new bill has been adopted that will severely restrict trans rights in Russia

Russia continues on a regressive path of oppressing its LGBTQ+ community with a bill that poses a serious threat to the rights and well-being of transgender individuals.

Russia’s lower house of parliament has passed legislation that outlaws trans healthcare, dissolves marriages of trans people, places a ban on changing gender markers in official documents, and prevents trans people from adopting or taking guardianship over children.

Parliament’s upper chamber and President Vladimir Putin are expected to approve the bill shortly. According to Human Rights Watch, the bill adopted on July 14, 2023, is part of an intensifying assault on LGBTQ+ rights in the country.

“Russia has persistently attacked sexual and gender minorities for political purposes,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “This legislation is the latest in a string of assaults on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, this time under the rubric of state-incited transphobia. The bill should be dropped immediately.”

The bill seeks to ban critical medical interventions integral to internationally recognised standards of care for transgender individuals. This includes prohibiting gender-affirming medication and surgery, thus hindering access to essential healthcare services for transgender individuals.

Existing marriages of transgender individuals would be automatically dissolved under the new legislation, undermining their rights to family life and relationships.

The bill also prevents trans people from changing their gender markers in official documents, effectively denying them recognition of their gender identity. Furthermore, transgender individuals would be barred from adopting children or becoming foster parents, further perpetuating discrimination against the community.

The initial version of the bill already faced strong criticism from human rights lawyers, activists, and medical professionals due to its discriminatory nature.

During the bill’s first reading, Pyotr Tolstoy, the State Duma’s deputy chair, announced that this law is “yet another step to protect national interests” from “perversions.”

Despite the backlash, lawmakers proceeded with an even more restrictive version of the bill, disregarding concerns about potential ethical, medical, and social repercussions, including an increase in suicide rates.

The new law is part of Russia’s intensifying crackdown on LGBTQ+ people. In 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed the repressive federal law prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships to minors.

The law has been used to ban LGBTQ+ Pride events and demonstrations and to restrict the positive depiction of LGBTQ+ people to children in public, on television, in print, and on the internet. Last year, Russian legislators broadened the 2013 law to include a ban on LGBTQ+ public information or activities for all Russians, not just children.

In September 2022, a court in Saint Petersburg upheld a prosecutor’s appeal to declare social media posts “creating an appearance that [being transgender] is socially acceptable” illegal in Russia.

“First, Russia tried to erase lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities from public view, and now they are targeting transgender people themselves,” said Reid. “Russia should reverse its outrageous policy and ensure rights to identity, family life, and medical care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – starting with reversing the anti-trans law,” he added.

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