POLITICS

Russian lawmakers move to further restrict transgender rights in a new legislation

Jul 13, 2023, 4:57 AM

FILE - Gay rights activists hold a banner reading "Homophobia - the religion of bullies" during the...

FILE - Gay rights activists hold a banner reading "Homophobia - the religion of bullies" during their action in protest at homophobia, on Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on July 14, 2013. Russian lawmakers has approved a toughened version of a bill that outlaws gender transitioning procedures, with added clauses that mandate annulling marriages in which one person has "changed gender" and barring transgender people from becoming foster or adoptive parents. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Russian lawmakers on Thursday approved a toughened version of a bill that outlaws gender transitioning procedures, with added clauses that annul marriages in which one person has “changed gender” and bar transgender people from becoming foster or adoptive parents.

The bill received swift, unanimous approval of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, in its key second reading, and lawmakers scheduled the third and final reading for Friday. There is little doubt that the bill, a crippling blow to Russia’s oppressed LGBTQ+ community, will be adopted amid the Kremlin’s crusade to protect what it views as the country’s “traditional values.”

The bill bans any “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records.

New clauses added to the bill also amend Russia’s Family Code by listing gender change as a reason to annul a marriage and adding those “who had changed gender” to a list of people who can’t become foster or adoptive parents.

Lawmakers portray the measure as protecting Russia from “the Western anti-family ideology,” with some describing gender transitioning as “pure satanism.”

It has rattled the country’s transgender community and has drawn criticism not only from LGBTQ+ rights advocates but from the medical community as well.

Lyubov Vinogradova, executive director of Russia’s Independent Psychiatric Association, called the bill “misanthropic” in an interview with The Associated Press. Gender transitioning procedures “shouldn’t be banned entirely, because there are people for whom it is the only way to … to exist normally and find peace with themselves,” Vinogradova said.

The crackdown on LGBTQ+ people started a decade ago, when President Vladimir Putin first proclaimed a focus on “traditional family values,” a move ardently supported — and fueled, to a certain extent — by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 2013, the Kremlin adopted the first legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights, known as the “gay propaganda” law that banned any public endorsement of “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors. In 2020, Putin pushed through a constitutional reform that outlawed same-sex marriage.

But the authorities ramped up their rhetoric about protecting the country from what it called the West’s “degrading” influence after sending troops into Ukraine last year, in what rights advocates saw as an attempt to legitimize the war.

Lawmakers moved last year to ban “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” among adults. That initiative was quickly rubber-stamped, and by December 2022, any positive or even neutral representation of LGBTQ+ people in movies, literature or media was outlawed.

The bill to severely restrict trans rights came a few months after that.

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Russian lawmakers move to further restrict transgender rights in a new legislation