Russian lawmakers in the Duma, the lower house of parliament, voted overwhelmingly in favor of new legislation that would make sex reassignment illegal. Image released by the Duma press service on July 14, 2023. – / AFP
So far one of the most liberal countries in the world on the subject, Russia has just made a radical change of course on gender transitions. The Russian Parliament adopted, on Friday July 14, a new legislation which prohibits any “sex change” (a term that transgender people reject) administrative, as well as any medical intervention – which includes both surgery and hormonal treatment.
“This decision protects our citizens and our children”assured Vyacheslav Volodin, the president of the Duma, evoking “a monstrous tendency which leads to the degeneration of a nation”. The text was adopted unanimously by the deputies. Compared to the initial draft submitted at the end of May, other provisions have been added concerning people who have made a gender transition since 1997 (when this possibility came into force): they will be prohibited from adopting or taking under guardianship children; marriages concluded in the past by people who have changed gender will be annulled.
This bill, of which The world detailed the content in early June, received enthusiastic support from the political class, who presented it as part of the civilizational war, or “holy war”, that Moscow claims to be waging in Ukraine. Gender transitions have thus been presented as a Western invention having “contaminated” Russia.
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During the few weeks that the discussions lasted, transgender people were thus qualified as “traitors”of “threats to national security”but also of “members of a cult”. Such a speech has an objective as much internal – to unite the population in the face of a terrifying enemy – as external: it is a question of rallying the supports of Moscow, as well in this hated West as in the rest of the world.
MEPs notably put forward a figure: if, in recent years, the number of legal transitions fluctuated between 200 and 400, it reached 996 in 2022. This increase should be seen as the result of attempts by Russian citizens to escape to mobilization and the possibility of being sent to the front, either “a sabotage of our defense capabilities”as the head of the Investigative Committee, a powerful judicial institution, described it.
“A huge step back”
For the few association leaders who have not fled Russia, the explanation for this increase is rather to be found in the many emigrants who wanted to put their affairs in order before leaving the country, after the start of the war.
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