Russian lawmakers approve ban on gender-affirming medical care
Russian lawmakers on Friday passed a law banning gender-affirming procedures in the country as the Kremlin continues its campaign of dismantling individual freedoms and instilling values it believes to be "traditional."
Russia's State Duma, the lower house of the parliament, unanimously approved the bill in its third and final reading.
The law seeks to introduce major amendments that outlaw any "medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person" and prohibit people from changing the gender marker in official documents or public records as well as becoming foster or adoptive parents.
The authorities will also be able to dissolve marriages involving people who previously "changed gender" even if this union is "of different sexes," the document says.
The bill will need to be approved by the Federation Council, the upper house of the parliament, and then get President Vladimir Putin's signature. There is little doubt that the bill, which deals another blow to the country's oppressed LGBTQ+ community, will breeze through the bureaucratic hoops and come into force.
Russian officials lauded the bill as means of protecting the country's "national interests" against what they called "Western anti-family ideology" and preserving Russia's "traditional foundations" for the sake of future generations.
"The Western transgender industry is trying to seep into our country, to open up the window for its multibillion-dollar business," Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy said at a recent hearing before launching a scaremongering tirade about the "network of sex change clinics with trans-friendly doctors" that allegedly target young people for profit.
"This won't lead to anything good; this is total satanism," said the speaker of the parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, in the same hearing.
Tolstoy also mocked what he called "an emotional conclusion" issued by the country's Health Ministry, which warned of the bill's harmful effects on transgender people.
"If the bill is passed, there will be a deadlock when individuals whose gender, officially recognized by medical professionals, does not align with the sex stated in their passports, would find themselves unable — poor things — to reconcile their passport data with their self-perceived reality," he said.
"This discrepancy could result in ethical, medical, and social issues, and may even — can you believe it? — lead to a rise in suicides across the country," Tolstoy added.
This anti-Western, anti-LGBTQ+ stance dates back to a decade ago when Putin steered his platform towards conservatism with "traditional family values" as the cornerstone of the country's domestic policy.
Multiple discriminatory laws have been passed since, starting with 2013 legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights known as the "gay propaganda" law, which banned any public endorsement of "nontraditional sexual relations" among minors.
Since the invasion of Ukraine last year, Russian authorities ratcheted up their rhetoric, methodically weeding out anything they deemed a "degrading Western influence," including rights groups that advocated anything from helping domestic abuse victims to preserving records of Soviet repressions.
In 2022, the original law targeting "gay propaganda" was expanded to cover adults, outlawing any positive or even neutral representation of LGBTQ+ people in the public sphere, movies, literature or media, forcing the already rare number of LGBTQ+-friendly spaces to shrink.
The executive director of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia, Lyubov Vinogradova, called the law "misanthropic" in comments to the Russian newspaper Kommersant in late June.
"It was prepared without any consultation with psychiatrists. We see an attempt to regulate issues related to science, medicine, by non-professional legislators — without discussion, without public hearings, but simply jumping on this for political reasons," said Vinogradova.