LGBT rights in Russia
StatusDe jure legal for consenting men same-sex sexual activity since 1993 but not criminalised for women.[1] "Promotion" of LGBT identity illegal since 2013 (homosexuality) and 2022 (transidentity)
PenaltyIn Chechnya: up to death since 2017[note 1]
Gender identityGender change legal between 1997 and 2023, illegal afterwards
MilitaryLGB people can serve in the army, there are no restrictions.[4]
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex unions
RestrictionsSame-sex marriage constitutionally banned since 2020[note 2]
AdoptionAllowed to adopt by a single person[note 3]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Russian Federation face significant challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents.[6][7] Although sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex is legal,[1] homosexuality is disapproved of by most of the population and pro-LGBT advocacy groups are deemed extremist and banned. It is illegal for individuals to "promote homosexuality" and same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are ineligible for the legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Russia provides no anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and does not have a designation for hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Transgender people are not allowed to change their legal gender and all gender-affirming care is banned. There are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and recent laws could be used to discriminate against transgender residents.

Russia has long held strongly negative views regarding homosexuality, with recent polls indicating that a majority of Russians are against the acceptance of homosexuality and have shown support for laws discriminating against homosexuals. Despite receiving international criticism for the recent increase in social discrimination, crimes, and violence against homosexuals [ru], larger cities such as Moscow[8] and Saint Petersburg[9] have been said to have a thriving LGBT community. However, there has been a historic resistance to gay pride parades by local governments; despite being fined by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 for interpreting it as discrimination, the city of Moscow denied 100 individual requests for permission to hold Moscow Pride through 2012, citing a risk of violence against participants. In 2016, Russia was rated the second least LGBT-friendly nation in Europe by ILGA-Europe.[10]

In December 1917, after the October Revolution, the Russian Soviet Republic (later the Russian SFSR) decriminalised homosexuality.[11] However, the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin would later recriminalise sex between men in March 1934 with the addition of Article 154-a to the Soviet criminal code, which punished consensual anal sex between men with three to five years' imprisonment.[12] The revised criminal code of 1961 continued to classify sexual relations between men as a crime, relocating it to Article 121 and providing for only a maximum of five years' imprisonment for consensual sex.[13] Western observers estimated that, during the Soviet era, between 800 and 1000 men were imprisoned per year under Article 121.[14] After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, homosexual acts between consenting males were re-legalised in 1993 (they had not been criminalised for women), removing Article 121 from the RSFSR penal code.[1]

Since 2006, under Vladimir Putin, regions in Russia have enacted varying laws restricting the distribution of materials promoting LGBT relationships to minors; in June 2013, a federal law criminalizing the distribution of materials among minors in support of non-traditional sexual relationships was enacted as an amendment to an existing child protection law.[15] The law has resulted in the numerous arrests of Russian LGBT citizens publicly opposing the law and there has reportedly been a surge of anti-gay protests, violence, and even hate crimes. It has received international criticism from human rights observers, LGBT activists, and media outlets and has been viewed as a de facto means of criminalizing LGBT culture.[16] The law was ruled to be inconsistent with protection of freedom of expression by the European Court of Human Rights but as of 2021 has not been repealed.[17] In 2022, the law was extended to apply to anyone regardless of age, thus making any expression deemed a promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships illegal.[18][19]

In a report issued on 13 April 2017, a panel of five expert advisors to the United Nations Human Rights CouncilVitit Muntarbhorn, Sètondji Roland Adjovi; Agnès Callamard; Nils Melzer; and David Kaye—condemned the wave of torture and killings of gay men in Chechnya.[20][21]

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the authorities have stepped up reactionary measures, particularly against trans people.[22] On 24 July 2023, President Putin signed into law a bill banning [ru] gender-affirming care in Russia.[23]

On 30 November 2023, the Supreme Court ruled the international LGBT movement to be "extremist," outlawing it in the country.[24] The next day, Russian security forces raided bars, male saunas and nightclubs across Moscow.[25][26] On 22 March 2024, the Supreme Court of Russia declared the international LGBT movement to be a terrorist organization.[27][28][29]

History

Main article: LGBT history in Russia

Under the reign of Peter the Great in the 18th, who introduced a wide range of reforms aimed at modernizing and Westernizing Russia, there was a ban on male homosexual activity, but only in military statutes for soldiers. In 1832, the criminal code included Article 995, which stated that muzhelozhstvo (Russian: мужеложство, 'sodomy'), or men lying with men, was a criminal act punishable by exile to Siberia for up to 5 years. Men lying with men was interpreted by courts as meaning anal sex. Application of the laws was rare, and the turn of the century found a relaxation of these laws and a general growing of tolerance and visibility.[citation needed]

In the wake of the October Revolution, the Bolshevik regime decriminalized homosexuality. The Bolsheviks rewrote the constitution and "produced two Criminal Codes – in 1922 and 1926 – and an article prohibiting homosexual sex was left off both."[30] The new Communist Party government removed the old laws regarding sexual relations, effectively legalising homosexual and transgender activity within Russia, although it remained illegal in other territories of the Soviet Union, and the homosexuals in Russia were still persecuted and sacked from their jobs.[30] Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union recriminalized homosexuality in a decree signed in 1933.[31] The new Article 154-a,[12] later relocated to Article 121 in 1961,[13] punished sexual relations between men with up to five years' imprisonment and led to several raids and arrests. Female homosexuals were sent to mental institutions. The decree was part of a broader campaign against "deviant" behavior and "Western degeneracy".[30] Following Stalin's death, there was a liberalisation of attitudes toward sexual issues in the Soviet Union, but homosexual acts remained illegal. Discrimination against LGBT individuals persisted in the Soviet era, and homosexuality was not officially declassified as a mental illness until 1999.[32]

Soviet Article 121 was often commonly used to extend prison sentences and to control dissidents. Among those imprisoned were the well-known film director Sergei Paradjanov and the poet Gennady Trifonov. Under Mikhail Gorbachev's administration in the late 1980s, the first gay organisation came into being. The Moscow Gay & Lesbian Alliance was headed by Yevgeniya Debryanskaya and Roman Kalinin, who became the editor of the first officially registered gay newspaper, Tema. The fall of the USSR accelerated the progress of the gay movement in Russia. Gay publications and plays appeared. In 1993, a new Russian Criminal Code was signed, without Article 121. Men who had been imprisoned began to be released.[citation needed]

Current situation

Public opinion

Public opinion in Russia tends to be hostile toward homosexuality and the level of intolerance has been rising.[39] A 2022 survey found that 74% of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society (up from 60% in 2002), compared to 14% who said that homosexuality should be accepted by society.[40] In a 2015 survey of 2,471 Russians, 86% said homosexuality should not be accepted by society.[41] In a 2007 survey, 68% of Russians said homosexuality is always wrong (54%) or almost always wrong (14%).[42] In a 2005 poll, 44% of Russians were in favour of making homosexual acts between consenting adults a criminal act;[43] at the same time, 43% of Russians supported a legal ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[43] In 2013, 16% of Russians surveyed said that gay people should be isolated from society, 22% said they should be forced to undergo treatment, and 5% said homosexuals should be "liquidated".[44] In Russian psychiatry, Soviet mentality about homosexuality has endured into the present day.[45] For instance, in spite of the removal of homosexuality from the nomenclature of mental disorders, 62.5% of 450 surveyed psychiatrists in the Rostov Region view it as an illness, and up to three-quarters view it as immoral behavior.[45] The psychiatrists sustain the objections to pride parades and the use of veiled schemes to lay off openly lesbian and gay persons from schools, child care centres, and other public institutions.[45] A Russian motorcycle club called the Night Wolves, which is closely associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin and which suggests "Death to faggots" as an alternate name for itself,[46] organised a large Anti-Maidan rally in February 2015 at which a popular slogan was "We don't need Western ideology and gay parades!"[47]

Same-sex unions

Main article: Recognition of same-sex unions in Russia

Neither same-sex marriages nor civil unions of same-sex couples are allowed in Russia. In July 2013, Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, of which approximately 71% of Russians are adherents,[48] said that the idea of same-sex marriage was "a very dangerous sign of the Apocalypse".[49] At a 2011 press conference, the head of the Moscow Registry Office, Irina Muravyova, declared: "Attempts by same-sex couples to marry both in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia are doomed to fail. We live in a civil society, we are guided by the federal law, [and] by the Constitution that clearly says: marriage in Russia is between a man and a woman. Such a marriage [same-sex] cannot be contracted in Russia."[50] The vast majority of the Russian public are also against same-sex marriage.[43][51] In July 2020, Russian voters approved a Constitution amendment banning same-sex marriage.[52] In the 2021 case Fedotova and Others v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it was a violation of human rights for Russia not to offer any form of legal recognition to same-sex relationships.[53] However, Russia left the court in 2022.[54]

Military service

Before 1993, homosexual acts between consenting males were against the law in Russia,[1] and homosexuality was considered a mental disorder until adoption of ICD-10 in 1999,[55] but even after that military medical expertise statute was in force to continue considering homosexuality a mental disorder which was a reason to deny homosexuals to serve in the military. On 1 July 2003, a new military medical expertise statute was adopted; it said people "who have problems with their identity and sexual preferences" can only be drafted during war times.[56] However, this clause contradicted another clause of the same statute which stated that different sexual orientation should not be considered a deviation. This ambiguity was resolved by the Major-General of the Medical Service Valery Kulikov who clearly stated that the new medical statute "does not forbid people of non-standard sexual orientation from serving in the military."[57] However, he added that people of non-standard sexual orientation should not reveal their sexual orientation while serving in the army because "other soldiers are not going to like that; they can be beaten".[58] President Vladimir Putin said in a U.S. television interview in 2010 that openly gay men were not excluded from military service in Russia.[59] In 2013, it was reported that the Defense Ministry had issued a guideline on assessment of new recruits' mental health that recommends recruits be asked about their sexual history and be examined for certain types of tattoos, especially genital or buttocks tattoos, that would allegedly indicate a homosexual orientation.[59][60]

As of April and May 2023 there has been a proposed crackdown on the changing of genders. The Russian State Duma is considering passing new laws to prevent men from changing their gender from male to female without surgery. The proposed changes, as first discussed by the Russian Minister of Justice, Konstantin Chuychenko, in April are to "rule out the possibility of changing a person’s gender purely by changing the documents.” Duma Committee on Family, Women, and Children's Affairs head Nina Ostanina said: "Amendments will soon be introduced in the State Duma to officially ban gender reassignment without surgery," In part it is to protect "family values" in Russia. However Russian men have considered changing their genders to avoid being called by the military authorities. According to one Russian source "In connection with the special operation, many young people have turned to private clinics to provide a sex change to avoid conscription..."Vyacheslav Volodin, Speaker of the Duma, claims that some "2,700" such decisions have been made in "recent times".[61][62]

Gay pride events

LGBT activists in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1 May 2017

There have been notable objections to the organisation of gay pride parades[63] in several Russian cities, most prominently Moscow, where authorities have never approved a request to hold a gay pride rally.[64] Former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov supported the city's refusal to authorize the first two editions of Nikolay Alexeyev's Moscow Pride events, calling them as "satanic". The events still went on as planned, in defiance of their lack of authorisation.[65][66] In 2010, Russia was fined by the European Court of Human Rights, ruling that, as alleged by Alexeyev, Russian cities were discriminating against the gay community by refusing to authorize pride parades. Although authorities had claimed allowing pride events to be held would pose a risk of violence, the Court ruled that their decisions "effectively approved of and supported groups who had called for [their] disruption."[67] In August 2012, contravening the previous ruling, the Moscow City Court upheld a ruling blocking requests by the organisers of Moscow Pride for authorisation to hold the parade yearly through 2112, citing the possibility of public disorder and a lack of support for such events by residents of Moscow.[68][69][70]

Chechnya

Main articles: LGBT rights in Chechnya and Anti-gay purges in Chechnya

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (right) with Chechnya's parliamentary chairman Magomed Daudov

Anti-gay purges in the Chechen Republic have included forced disappearances — secret abductions, imprisonment, and torture — by authorities targeting persons based on their perceived sexual orientation. An unknown number of men, who authorities detained on suspicion of being gay or bisexual, have reportedly died after being held in what human rights groups and eyewitnesses have called concentration camps.[71][72]

Allegations were initially reported on 1 April 2017 in Novaya Gazeta,[2] a Russian-language opposition newspaper, which reported that since February 2017 over 100 men had allegedly been detained and tortured and at least three had died in an extrajudicial killing. The paper, citing its sources in the Chechen special services, called the wave of detentions a "prophylactic sweep".[2][3] The journalist who first reported on the subject went into hiding.[73][74] There have been calls for reprisals against journalists who report on the situation.[75]

As news spread of Chechen authorities' actions, which have been described as part of a systematic anti-LGBT purge, Russian and international activists scrambled to evacuate survivors of the camps and other vulnerable Chechens but were met with difficulty obtaining visas to conduct them safely beyond Russia.[76]

The reports of the persecution were met with a variety of reactions worldwide. The Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov denied not only the occurrence of any persecution but also the existence of gay men in Chechnya, adding that such people would be killed by their own families.[77][78] Officials in Moscow were sceptical, although in late May the Russian government reportedly agreed to send an investigative team to Chechnya.[79] Numerous national leaders and other public figures in the West condemned Chechnya's actions, and protests were held in Russia and elsewhere. A report released in December 2018 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed claims that persecution of LGBT persons had taken place and was ignored by authorities.[80][81]

On 11 January 2019, it was reported that another 'gay purge' had begun in the country in December 2018, with several gay men and women being detained.[82][83][84][85][86] The Russian LGBT Network believes that around 40 persons were detained and two killed.[87][88]

In March 2021, Reuters reported that the European Union imposed economic sanctions on two Chechen officials accused of persecuting LGBT people in Chechnya.[89]

Public opinion

Support for same-sex marriage in the Russian Federation (2019 poll)[90]

  Oppose (87%)
  Support (7%)
  Other (6%)

Russia has traditionally been socially conservative on LGBT rights, with 2013 polls indicating a large majority of Russians oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage, and support for laws restricting the distribution of "propaganda" that promotes non-traditional sexual relationships.[91][92]

In 2019, a survey showed that 47% of Russian respondents agreed that "gays and lesbians should enjoy the same rights as other citizens," while 43 percent disagreed, a rise from 39% in 2013. This marks the highest level of support in 14 years.[93][94]

In 2019, a poll showed that only 2% would show interest and a willingness to communicate if the neighbour was a homosexual couple or a member of a religious sect, the last of the category of people presented.[95]

According to a 2019 poll carried out by the Russian Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), 7% of Russians agreed that same-sex marriages should be allowed in Russia, while 87% opposed the idea.[90]

Demographics Support for same-sex marriage[90]
Yes No
Total 7% 87%
Gender
Male 5% 89%
Female 8% 85%
Age
18–30 12% 82%
31–45 6% 90%
46–60 7% 87%
60 and older 3% 88%
Federal district
Central 9% 84%
– Moscow 11% 80%
North West 10% 84%
South 2% 94%
North Caucasus 4% 90%
Volga 8% 83%
Ural 6% 88%
Siberia 6% 89%
Far East 5% 89%

Employment discrimination

Anton Krasovsky, a television news anchor at government-run KontrTV, was immediately fired[96][97] from his job in January 2013 when he announced during a live broadcast that he is gay and disgusted by the national anti-gay propaganda legislation that had been proposed although had not yet passed.[49][98]

In September 2013, a Khabarovsk teacher and gay rights activist, Alexander Yermoshkin, was fired from his two jobs as school teacher and university researcher.[99] A week earlier, he had been attacked by members of a local neo-Nazi group "Shtolz Khabarovsk".[100] An activist group called "Movement against the propaganda of sexual perversions" had campaigned for his dismissal.[101]

Viewpoints of political parties

The federal law banning LGBT propaganda among minors was passed unanimously by the Russian Duma; as the bill amended an existing child protection law, it is difficult to know whether or not all of the MPs, and their respective political parties, supported every aspect of the bill or not. A few political parties without members in the Duma have expressed some limited support for LGBT rights.[citation needed]

Yabloko is a member of the Liberal International, and has organised public demonstrations against intolerance under the banner of building a "Russia without pogroms".[102]

The Libertarian Party of Russia, formed in 2007, has objected to the government ban on "gay propaganda" as a violation of people's right to freedom of speech.[103]

In 2016, two openly gay men ran for seats in the Russian duma. While they admit that they probably will not win a seat, they were supported by a liberal coalition. They are also probably the first openly gay candidates to run for seats in the Russian parliament.[104]

The LGBT rights organisation Gayrussia.ru has been monitoring homophobic political parties since 2011.[105] In the middle of 2013 their list included:[106] United Russia, Communist Party of Russian Federation, Narodnaya Volya, National Bolshevik Party, National Bolshevik Front, Patriots of Russia, Eurasian Youth Union and Fair Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has used the existence of transgender rights in other countries as justification for the potential deployment of nuclear weapons against Ukraine. In a speech given on September 30, 2022, Putin said "Do we want things that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on children from elementary school? Do we want them to be taught that instead of men and women, there are supposedly some other genders and to be offered sex-change surgeries? This is unacceptable to us." before following up by stating that Russia would be willing to use "all means at our disposal" against Ukraine, and saying that the United States "created a precedent" when it used nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945, mirroring comments by other Russian officials that nuclear weapons were on the table.[107]

Hate crimes

Hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals are on the rise in Russia. They became more prevalent as a direct consequence of the "gay propaganda law". The introduction of this discriminatory legislation caused a disturbing chain reaction. Across the country, numerous individuals, sometimes with implicit support from authorities, engaged in acts of violence against LGBTQ individuals. Some of those individuals organized hate groups that viewed the elimination of LGBTQ people as a means of restoring societal order.[108] The Russian government does not officially record hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, perpetuating a narrative that such individuals do not exist.[109]

Overall, the number of crimes is triple that prior to the law. This has been reported by a number of research projects and NGOs (2 Russian NGOs - LGBT Initiative Group Stimul and SOVA Center and 1 international organization - OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights – ODIHR).[110][111][112] In addition to this quantitative change, crimes against LGBTQ people have become more violent, and more are perpetrated by groups rather than individuals.[113]

Increase in hate crime

Number of hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals in Russia (2010–2020)[112]

Between 2013 and 2018 the number of hate crimes against LGBTQ people tripled. Such crimes existed before 2013, but the level of violence increased significantly after the introduction of the discriminatory legislation. The increase was recorded in the following year,[114] and it remained on a higher level throughout the decade.[115] It was reported that between 2010 and 2020 there were 1056 hate crimes committed against 853 individuals, with 365 fatalities. The number of crimes after the "gay propaganda" law was enacted is three times higher than before (46 in 2010 compared to 138 in 2015).[115]

These incidents include violent attacks, murders, threats, destruction of property, robberies and others.[115]

After 2013 crime against gay people was found by research to have become more violent, with 67% of hate crime incidents having indications of "extreme violence".[115]

Additionally, the crimes became more elaborate, there were more premeditated crimes, committed with preparation (oftentimes by a group of perpetrators with a purposeful selection of a homosexual target) - for 3 years in a row (2017, 2018, 2019) there was an increase in organized hate crimes against LGBTQ, attributed to the activity of homophobic hate groups.[115] In most of the cases those hate groups used dating apps and websites in order to "hunt" homosexuals. Those attacks would oftentimes include physical abuse and harassment, the videos of attacks are disseminated on the Internet.[116][117]

One of the most prevalent hate group - Occupy Pedophilia became very active in the aftermath of "the gay propaganda law". Launched by Maxim Martsinkevich, a.k.a. Tesak, at the peak of its activity it was present in 40 regions of Russia.[116] The ideology of this hate group was described in Tesak's book Restruct (2012), where he specifically addresses homosexuality, stating that it “cannot be cured” and therefore needs to be exterminated:

Restrukt [Tesak's follower] is heterosexual. In all his actions, he relies on the laws of nature, therefore he does not allow any tolerance for homosexuals. He hates them, like all other vices. However, this one, unlike some of the others, cannot be cured. There might be former smokers and former alcoholics, but there cannot be former faggots[118]

Between 2010 and 2020 the research identified 205 cases of hate crimes committed by various homophobic hate groups. Moreover, the introduction of the "gay propaganda law" had a noticeable effect on this - the number of cases grew from 2 in 2010 to 38 in 2014. Many of those crimes are committed by Tesak, his followers or copycat movements.[118]

Some notable cases

The crimes committed by the numerous hate groups follow the same scenario.

The presumed paedophile is subjected to a filmed interrogation in which the microphone is replaced by a dildo or a toilet brush. Tesak asks him to identify himself, to hold his passport up to the screen, to indicate his address, to say whether or not he is married and if he has children. After the naming and shaming stage, the questions are then aimed at making the presumed paedophile admit his intentions in going to the date and, more generally, his sexual preferences: ‘are you a paedophile or a paederast?’ […] “Congratulations, you have just completely ruined your life”, jokes Tesak while filming another of his prey lying motionless in his bathtub and being subjected to this pretence of an investigation. The presumed paedophile must often call close people in his life – his wife, children, brother or employer – and has to confess his guilt in front of the camera. His head is sometimes shaved or his hair dyed green. Homophobic and defamatory inscriptions are written on his forehead (‘Fuck LGBT’, or a rainbow flag). He is made to simulate fellatio with a dildo, and to prance around and sing silly songs. Sometimes he is filmed without any clothes on. He is slapped, shouted at and roughed up. The punishment known as ‘urotherapy’ is a common practice in all of Occupy Paedophilia’s videos and a hallmark of neo-Nazi vigilantes. It involves throwing urine in the prey’s face or making them drink it.[116]

On 20 January 2013, six demonstrating LGBT activists in the provincial capital of Voronezh were attacked by over 500 people. The protest by these agitators, who appeared with Hitler salutes and hate slogans and threw snowballs, bottles and other objects at the demonstrators and then beat them up, was not registered. The police assigned 10 officers to this event. The employees of the nearby Adidas sports shop staged its mannequins with Hitler salutes in solidarity with the beating. At least three LGBT activists, including women, were injured and hospitalized during the resistance. On the same day, the author of the Petersburg law against 'homosexual propaganda', Vitaly Milonov, posted on his Twitter that "Voronezh is great".[citation needed]

Activists in Madrid protest LGBT rights violations in Russia. 'El amor siempre gana' translates as 'Love always wins'.

Unlike in many western nations, LGBT persons in Russia are not protected by specific legal protections. Violent criminal acts carried out against LGBT people are prosecuted as criminal offences under Russian law, but the fact that these crimes are motivated by the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim is not considered an aggravating factor when the court determines the sentence. Among the more vicious crimes that would qualify as hate crimes outside of Russia and are reported in the press would include the following;

Transgender issues

In Tsarist Russia, young women would sometimes pose as men or act like tomboys. This was often tolerated among the educated middle classes, with the assumption that such behavior was asexual and would stop when the girl married.[126] However, cross-dressing was widely seen as sexually immoral behavior, punishable by God promoted through the Church and later criminalized by the government.[126]

In Soviet Russia, sex reassignment surgeries were first tried during the 1920s[citation needed] but became prohibited until the 1960s. Later they were performed by Irina Golubeva, an endocrinologist, authorized by psychiatrist Aron Belkin, who was the strongest Soviet advocate for transgender people until his death in 2003.[126]

On 29 December 2014, Russia passed a road safety law, allowing the government to deny driver's licenses to people with several classes of mental disorders according to ICD-10.[127] Class "F60-69 Disorders of adult personality and behaviour" includes "F64 Transsexualism"[128] Russian and foreign critics perceived the law as a ban on transgender drivers: journalist Yelena Masyuk questioned the relevance of a person's transgender identity in regards to their ability to drive.[129][130] On 14 January 2015, Russia's Health Ministry clarified the law, stating that it would only deny licenses to those with disorders that would impair their ability to drive safely, and explicitly stated that one's sexual orientation would not be considered a factor under the law, as it is not considered a psychiatric disorder.[131]

In 2018, the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation developed a draft medical certificate that will help transgender people with confirming their gender identity on their legal documents. The Ministry of Justice approved this document on January 19, 2018. Up to this point, changes related to the gender change could only be made to the documents on the basis of a court decision. The Ministry of Health explained that, in accordance with the legislation, the registry offices make changes to the birth certificate if a mentioned certificate is submitted.[citation needed]

A certificate of gender change required to change person's gender in documents such as a birth certificate and passport, and can be obtained on the basis of a medical commission consisting of a psychiatrist, a sexologist and a medical psychologist. Neither sex-affirmative surgery nor hormone replacement therapy required. The minimum duration of psychiatric observation is not specified in the final document of the Ministry of Health.[132][133] On average, the commission lasts from 2 days to 1 month.[citation needed]

On 31 May 2023, a bill to legally ban individuals having any sex change and reassignments within Russia, annulling marriages with partners that have changed gender and banning said individuals from adopting children was introduced in the State Duma.[22] On 19 July, the bill unanimously passed its three required readings in the State Duma (lower house of parliament).[134][135] On 19 July, the upper house of parliament unanimously approved the bill as well.[135]

On 24 July, the bill was signed into law by Russian president Vladimir Putin.[136] State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the number of gender reassignment surgeries in the U.S. has increased by 50 times over the past 10 years, and around 1.4% of all US teenagers aged between 13 and 17 identified themselves as transgender in 2022. He said “This is the path leading to the degradation of a nation”, stating that the newly adopted law was designed to avoid such a scenario[137]

In July 2023, Russia enacted the "Law Banning Gender Transition in Russia" [ru], which includes the following provisions:[138][139]

In January 2024, Meduza reported that Russia's MVD had begun bringing transgender people in for questioning. According to one transgender subject, he was questioned about where he got the medical certificate approving his transition, how much it cost, who was on the committee to approve it, and if he had attended any LGBT parties. After answering that he didn't remember the answer to the last question, he was told that they would keep bringing him in until he did. He was also told that if his approval certificate turned out to be invalid, that he would be forcibly detransitioned.[141]

Propaganda bans

Displayed in   are countries where homosexuality is not illegal, but where freedom of expression and association is censored or prohibited.   are countries where such laws result in arrest or detention. Russia is listed in this category.

Regional laws

Ten Russian regions passed laws banning the distribution of "propaganda" relating to homosexuality, and/or other LGBT relationships, to minors.
  Ban on the promotion of homosexuality, bisexuality and transidentity
  Ban on the promotion of homosexuality and bisexuality
  Ban on the promotion of homosexuality

Between 2006 and 2013, ten regions enacted a ban on "propaganda of homosexualism" among minors. The laws of nine of them prescribe punishments of administrative sanctions and/or fines. The laws in some of the regions also forbid so-called "propaganda of bisexualism and transgenderism" to minors. As of May 2013 the regions that had enacted these various laws, and the years in which they had passed the laws, included: Ryazan Oblast (2006), Arkhangelsk Oblast (2011), Saint Petersburg (2012), Kostroma Oblast (2012), Magadan Oblast (2012), Novosibirsk Oblast (2012), Krasnodar Krai (2012), Samara Oblast (2012), Bashkortostan (2012),[note 4] and Kaliningrad Oblast (February 2013).[note 5] Then, Arkhangelsk (2013) and Saint Petersburg (2014) removed the law.[citation needed]

In 2019, Russia cut and censored gay sex scenes in the movie musical Rocketman based on the life of British singer Elton John, a decision he criticized, saying it is "cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people."[142]

National laws

Main article: Russian LGBT propaganda law

Federal laws passed on 29 June 2013 ban the distribution of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" among minors.[143][16][144][145] Critics contend the law makes illegal holding any sort of public demonstration in favour of gay rights, speak in defence of LGBT rights, and distribute material related to LGBT culture, or to state that same-sex relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.[146][147][148][149] Additionally the laws have received international condemnation from human rights campaigners, and media outlets that even display of LGBT symbols, such as the rainbow flag, have resulted in arrests, and incited homophobic violence.[15]

The law subjects Russian citizens found guilty to fines of up to 5,000 roubles and public officials to fines of up to 50,000 roubles.[citation needed] Organisations or businesses will be fined up to 1 million rubles and be forced to cease operations for up to 90 days. Foreigners may be arrested and detained for up to 15 days then deported, as well as fined up to 100,000 rubles. Russian citizens who have used the Internet or media to promote "non-traditional relations" will be fined up to 100,000 rubles.[16]

The statute amended a law that is said to protect children from pornography and other "harmful information".[150] One of the authors of the statute, Yelena Mizulina, who is the chair of the Duma's Committee on Family, Women, and Children and who has been described by some as a moral crusader,[151][152][153] told lawmakers as the bill was being considered, "Traditional sexual relations are relations between a man and a woman.... These relations need special protection".[149] Mizulina argued that a recent poll had shown 88% of the public were in support of the bill.[154]

Member of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg, Vitaly Milonov. Milonov is interviewed in the 2014 American documentary film Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda.

Commenting on the bill prior to its passage, President Putin said, during a visit to Amsterdam in April 2013, "I want everyone to understand that in Russia there are no infringements on sexual minorities' rights. They're people, just like everyone else, and they enjoy full rights and freedoms".[155] He went on to say that he fully intended to sign the bill because the Russian people demanded it.[149] As he put it, "Can you imagine an organization promoting pedophilia in Russia? I think people in many Russian regions would have started to take up arms.... The same is true for sexual minorities: I can hardly imagine same-sex marriages being allowed in Chechnya. Can you imagine it? It would have resulted in human casualties."[149] Putin also mentioned that he was concerned about Russia's low birth-rate and that same-sex relationships do not produce children.[150]

Critics say that the statute is written so broadly that it is in effect a complete ban on the gay rights movement and any public expression of LGBT culture.[49][149][155]

In July 2013, four Dutch tourists were arrested for allegedly discussing gay rights with Russian youths. The four were arrested for allegedly spreading "propaganda of nontraditional relationships among the under-aged" after talking to teens at a camp in the northern city of Murmansk.[156]

In March 2018 the Russian authorities forbade the biggest gay website Gay.ru because of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships".[157]

In December 2022, an amendment to the propaganda law was signed into law by Putin,[158] extending it to all age groups. It also prohibits the distribution of materials that promote "pedophilia", or give minors a "desire to change their sex".[159][160][161]

In February 2023, the Russian government introduced the AI program Oculus to scan the internet for illegal content, including “LGBT propaganda.”[162][163]

In November 2023, Russia's Supreme Court declared the "international LGBT movement" an extremist organisation, following a Ministry of Justice lawsuit citing "various signs of an extremist orientation." This decision raised concerns for LGBTQ+ individuals and organisations in Russia, as it could lead to criminal prosecution for simple acts like displaying the rainbow flag, and was seen as part of President Putin's campaign to emphasize "Russian traditional values." The ruling has been criticized by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, as "shameful and absurd."[164]

On 22 March 2024, the Supreme Court of Russia declared the "international LGBT social movement and its structural units,” to be a terrorist and extremist organization.[27][28]

Domestic reactions

Saint Petersburg protest march, 1 May 2014

According to a survey conducted in June 2013 by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), at least 90% of those surveyed were in favor of the law.[49][165]

Russian historian and human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva has called it "a step toward the Middle Ages".[16]

In January 2016, the State Duma rejected a proposal by the Communist Party to punish people who publicly express their homosexuality with fines and arrests.[166]

International reactions and boycott

See also: LGBT rights protests surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics

Activists painted the pedestrian pavement in front of the Russian Embassy in Finland with rainbow colours to protest Russian's anti-LGBT sentimentality and legislation. Similar activism has been done in Sweden.

International human rights organisations and the governments of developed democracies around the world have strongly condemned this Russian law.[167][168][169][170] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned this Russian statute and another similar one in Moldova (which was later repealed) as discriminatory and has made clear that the Russian statute in question is a violation of international human rights law, including the right of gay children to receive proper information.[171][172][173][174][175] The European Parliament has condemned Russia for homophobic discrimination and censorship[176] and the Council of Europe has called on Russia to protect LGBT rights properly.[177] The European Court of Human Rights had previously fined Russia for other infringements of LGBT rights.[178] In 2012 the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that a similar statute in the Russia's Ryazan Region was discriminatory, infringed on freedom of expression, and was inadmissible under international law – a Russian court in Ryazan later agreed and struck it down.[179][180] Some members of the gay community commenced a boycott of Russian goods, particularly Russian vodka.[181]

Many Western celebrities and activists are openly opposed to the law and have encouraged a boycott of Russian products – notably Russian vodka – as well as a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which were scheduled to be held in Sochi, unless the Games were relocated out of Russia.[182][183][184][185]

Political figures

United States President Barack Obama said that while he did not favour boycotting the Sochi Olympics over the law, "Nobody's more offended than me about some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing in Russia".[186] Obama subsequently, in September 2013, met with Russian gay rights activists during a visit to St. Petersburg to attend a meeting of the G-20 nations' leaders. Obama said that he was proud of the work the activists were doing. His aides had said that Obama's opposition to the anti-gay propaganda law was one reason Obama had canceled a meeting previously planned to have been held with Russian President Putin during the trip.[186]

The law was also condemned by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German cabinet secretaries,[187] British Prime Minister David Cameron,[188] Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr,[189] as well as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.[190]

Summary table

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "LGBT rights in Russia" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (December 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Notes
Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes Legal since 1993 for men, never criminalised for women.[1]
No De facto illegal in Chechnya, often punished with life in prison, torture, vigilante execution, vigilante attacks and forced labor camp internment.
Equal age of consent (16) Yes (since 2003)[33][note 6]
Freedom of expression No (Federal ban on distribution of "propaganda" for "non-traditional" relationships and "sex change" to minors since 2013 and to adults since 2022; Public expression of LGBT identity banned since 2023)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (including indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage(s) No (Constitutional ban since 2020)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
Adoption by a single LGBT person Yes Legal for single cisgender LGB people No Illegal for trans people since 24.07.2023[192]
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
LGB people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes

[4]

Right to change legal gender No (Banned since 2023)
Homosexuality declassified as an illness No (not classified as an illness from 1999 to 2022; new laws introduced on 1 July 2023)[34]
Access to IVF for lesbians No
MSM allowed to donate blood Yes (Since 2008) [193]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Chechen authorities have reportedly arrested, imprisoned and killed persons based on their perceived sexual orientation in anti-gay purges.[2][3]
  2. ^ In the 2020 amendments to the Constitution of Russia, marriage is defined as being between a man and woman, thereby banning same-sex marriage.[5]
  3. ^ Adoption is regulated by the Civil Procedure Code of Russia (Chapter 29); Family Code of Russia (Chapter 19); Federal Law On Acts of Civil Status (Chapter V). None of these documents contain any direct restriction or ban for homosexual people to adopt, though unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt children (Article 127.2 of the Family Code of Russia), and since same-sex marriage is not officially recognized, gay couples cannot adopt children together; nevertheless, single individuals can adopt (see also the Parent Relations section of the Russian LGBT Network 2009 Report). The Court makes the decision to allow or deny adoption considering many documents and testimonies, so it is unclear whether LGBT affiliation of the candidate adopter can be in fact an issue for a judge to make a negative decision.
  4. ^ Bashkortostan is the only region where the law does not include any kind of administrative sanctions or fines.
  5. ^ Kaliningrad Oblast's measure bans "propaganda of homosexualism" not only among minors, but among the population in general.
  6. ^ The age of consent for homosexual acts was never specifically mentioned in the old Criminal Code of RSFSR, which was replaced with the new Criminal Code of Russia in 1996, and this new Code mentions the age of consent regardless of sexual orientation (although harsher penalties applies in case of an illicit same-sexual intercourse with a person younger than 16) in Article 134.[191]

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Sources

 This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 (license statement/permission). Text taken from Out in the Open: Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression​, 45, UNESCO, UNESCO. UNESCO.

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