Russia has taken another step backward in its treatment of LGBTQ+ people. On July 24, 2023, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law that effectively bans gender-affirming procedures and document changes in the country.
This is a devastating blow to the transgender community and a violation of their human rights. The law prohibits any “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” except for cases of congenital anomalies. It also nullifies marriages in which one spouse has “changed gender” and prevents transgender people from becoming foster or adoptive parents.
Moreover, it makes it impossible for transgender people to change their gender marker in official documents and public records, such as passports, birth certificates, and ID cards. The law is part of the Kremlin’s ongoing campaign to promote what it calls “traditional values” and to protect Russia from “Western anti-family ideology.” Some lawmakers have even described gender transitioning as “pure satanism.” The law follows a series of other discriminatory measures that have targeted LGBTQ+ people in Russia in recent years.
In 2013, Putin signed a law that banned any public expression of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors, effectively outlawing any LGBTQ+ advocacy or education. In 2020, he pushed through a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, ruling out any possibility of same-sex marriage. In 2021, he signed another law that extended the ban on LGBTQ+ “propaganda” to adults as well.
These laws have had a chilling effect on the LGBTQ+ community in Russia, who face widespread stigma, harassment, violence, and persecution. According to a 2020 report by ILGA-Europe, an LGBTQ+ rights organization, Russia ranked 48th out of 49 European countries in terms of legal and social equality for LGBTQ+ people.
The report noted that LGBTQ+ people in Russia face “systematic discrimination” and “a climate of impunity for hate crimes.” The report also highlighted the ongoing persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya, a Russian republic where authorities have reportedly detained, tortured, and killed dozens of LGBTQ+ people since 2017.
The new law banning gender-affirming procedures and document changes will further marginalize and endanger transgender people in Russia, who already face significant barriers to accessing health care, education, employment, and legal recognition.
The law will also increase the risk of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, among transgender people who are denied the opportunity to live authentically and safely. The law is not only cruel and unjust, but also contrary to international human rights standards and medical best practices.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes gender dysphoria as a medical condition that can be treated with gender-affirming care. The WHO also states that legal recognition of one’s gender identity is essential for ensuring the dignity and well-being of transgender people.
The international community should condemn Russia’s new law and urge Putin to repeal it immediately. The law is a blatant attack on the dignity and rights of transgender people and a threat to the diversity and democracy of Russian society. Transgender people are not a threat to anyone; they are human beings who deserve respect, acceptance, and protection.
As the famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Perhaps Putin should heed these words and change his attitude towards LGBTQ+ people instead of trying to change them.