Russia approves ban on gender-affirming medical care

Russian lawmakers have passed a law prohibiting gender-affirming procedures in the country, further curtailing individual freedoms in line with the Kremlin’s efforts to enforce its perception of “traditional” values. The State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, unanimously approved the bill in its final reading.

The legislation introduces sweeping amendments that criminalize “medical interventions aimed at changing a person’s sex.” It also forbids individuals from altering their gender marker on official documents or public records and restricts them from becoming foster or adoptive parents. Furthermore, the law allows authorities to dissolve marriages involving individuals who have “changed gender,” even if the union comprises people of different sexes.

The bill must now undergo approval by the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, and subsequently receive President Vladimir Putin’s signature. Given the authorities’ track record of suppressing LGBTQ+ rights, there is little doubt that the bill, which further marginalizes the oppressed LGBTQ+ community, will easily pass through these stages and become enforceable.

Russian officials praised the law as a means to protect the country’s “national interests” against what they perceive as “Western anti-family ideology.” They argue that preserving Russia’s “traditional foundations” is crucial for future generations.

During a recent hearing, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy denounced the “Western transgender industry,” alleging that it seeks to infiltrate Russia by establishing a network of profitable sex change clinics that target vulnerable young people. Speaker of the parliament Vyacheslav Volodin echoed these sentiments, labeling the industry as “total satanism.”

Tolstoy also ridiculed the concerns raised by Russia’s Health Ministry regarding the detrimental impact of the bill on transgender individuals. He dismissed the ministry’s warnings of ethical, medical, and social issues arising from the proposed law, even suggesting that suicides might increase as a result of the discrepancy between individuals’ recognized gender and their passport information.

This anti-Western and anti-LGBTQ+ stance emerged around a decade ago when Putin embraced conservatism, emphasizing “traditional family values” as the cornerstone of domestic policy. Since then, numerous discriminatory laws have been enacted, including the infamous 2013 “gay propaganda” law, which banned any public support for “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors.

Following the invasion of Ukraine in the past year, Russian authorities have intensified their rhetoric, systematically purging what they perceive as “degrading Western influence.” This includes targeting rights groups involved in issues ranging from aiding domestic abuse victims to preserving records of Soviet repressions.

In 2022, the original “gay propaganda” law was expanded to encompass adults, effectively banning any positive or neutral representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in public spaces, movies, literature, and media. This has further diminished the already limited number of LGBTQ+-friendly spaces in the country.

Lyubov Vinogradova, the executive director of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia, criticized the law as “misanthropic,” highlighting its lack of consultation with psychiatric professionals. She denounced the legislation as an attempt to regulate scientific and medical matters by non-professional legislators, driven solely by political motivations.