The Russian State Duma, or lower house of parliament, has voted in favor of a new law banning nearly all medical help for transgender people including gender reassignment surgery, in a raft of new anti-LGBTQ laws in Russia.
The bill, which had its third and final reading on Friday, prohibits doctors from conducting gender reassignment surgeries, except in cases related to treating congenital physiological anomalies in children. It also restricts registry offices from amending official documents based on medical certificates of gender change.
The law must still be approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin before it comes into force.
Amendments made for its third reading include disqualifying individuals who have undergone gender changes from becoming adoptive parents or guardians, as well as the possibility of annulling a marriage if one or both spouses undergo a gender change and update their civil status records.
Putin has toughened anti-LGTBQ legislation in recent months, as the Kremlin clamps down on free speech and human rights amid the war in Ukraine.
These recent legal developments in Russia expand the constraints on the LGBTQ community and reflect a tightening of regulations and control over transgender rights in the country.
In December 2022, Russia expanded its existing “gay propaganda” law to exert control over public discussions and narratives surrounding non-heterosexual relationships and identities. The package of amendments signed by Putin includes heavier penalties for anyone promoting “non-traditional sexual relations and/or preferences,” as well as gender transition.
Russia’s first transgender politician, Yulia Alyoshina, has warned of the severe consequences of the proposed transgender bill.
“Once the bill becomes law, the repercussions will be harsh, as transgender individuals will be denied the right for medical care, which is constitutionally guaranteed,” Alyoshina told CNN.
“This bill is not just discriminatory, it is a real genocide of transgender people,” she added.
In October, amid the hearings on “LGBTQ propaganda” law amendments and the bill passing its first reading in the State Duma, Alyoshina, who obtained her new passport in 2020, resigned from her position as a regional head of the Civic Initiative party and chose to end her political career.
‘Politics of terror’
The latest restrictions seem to be closely intertwined with the ongoing dissent on the political and human rights activity in Russia.
Notably, on the eve of the final reading, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced it had detained a transgender activist on suspicion of treason.
The FSB alleged that the activist, a Russian citizen from the Oryol region, supported the Armed Forces of Ukraine by providing financial assistance through a donation to the independent human rights monitoring group OVD-Info.
The Russian state labeled OVD-Info a foreign agent in 2021 under a law that critics say suppresses dissent. The group has continued to document alleged rights abuses inside Russia and expanded its mandate to help anti-war protesters following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Vanya Solovey, a trans rights campaigner, said “it is no coincidence” that the law is being read in Russian parliament amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
“Russia’s anti-gender discourse and politics have intensified since it started the full-scale war. For months, Putin and other officials have been increasingly targeting trans people in their statements,” Solovey, an advocacy and program officer for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the trans rights group Transgender Europe, told CNN.
“This anti-trans politics is indeed a politics of terror. It affects not only trans people but everyone living in Russia.”
CNN’s Sana Noor Haq and Ivana Kottasová contributed reporting.