Russian lawmakers pass bill outlawing gender reassignment

Bill decried by Russia’s transgender community will now head to the Kremlin-controlled upper chamber before being signed by Putin.

A participant waves a rainbow flag during the LGBT community rally "X St.Petersburg Pride" in central Saint Petersburg, Russia August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
In this image from 2019, a participant waves a rainbow flag during an LGBTQ community rally in Saint Petersburg [File: Anton Vaganov/Reuters]

Russian politicians have adopted a bill outlawing gender-reassignment procedures amid the Kremlin’s push to protect what it views as the country’s “traditional values”.

The toughened version of the bill was passed unanimously on Friday in its third and final reading in Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

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.

The only exception will be medical intervention to treat congenital anomalies.

In its second reading on Thursday, clauses were added that annul marriages in which one person has “changed gender” and bar transgender people from becoming foster or adoptive parents.

The bill must be passed by the Federation Council, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled upper chamber that generally rubber-stamps legislation that the Duma has approved, before being signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian parliamentarians vote for bill banning gender change surgery during a session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow, Russia July 14, 2023.  Russian State Duma/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
Russian parliamentarians vote for the bill banning gender change surgery during a session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow [Russian State Duma/Handout via Reuters]

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

Lyubov Vinogradova, executive director of Russia’s Independent Psychiatric Association, called the bill “misanthropic” in a phone interview with The Associated Press before the final reading.

Gender-affirming 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.

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

Chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said in a statement on social media: “This decision will protect our citizens and our children.”

He pointed to what he described as a growing trend of gender reassignment in the United States, and claimed this was leading to the “degeneration” of the country.

“This is unacceptable for us,” he added, explaining why the proposed ban had won the backing of the lower house.

The crackdown on LGBTQ people started a decade ago when Putin first proclaimed a focus on “traditional family values”, a move ardently supported – and fuelled, 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.

Yan Dvorkin, a 32-year-old psychologist who leads a Russian NGO helping transgender people called “Centre T”, told the AFP news agency prior to Friday’s vote he was concerned about a possible rise in suicides as a result of the bill.

He also said the ban on hormone reassignment therapy – also to be made illegal under the rules – risks “creating a black market in hormones”.

Source: News Agencies