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Russian authorities have initiated legal proceedings in the Supreme Court to prohibit the LGBTQ “international public movement”. The Ministry of Justice has filed an administrative claim with the aim of designating the LGBTQ movement as extremist and prohibiting its activities in Russia. This action represents a significant escalation in the on-going suppression of LGBTQ rights in Russia during President Vladimir Putin’s tenure, wherein he has prioritized the promotion of “traditional family values”. 

In July, legislators enacted a ban on medical interventions and administrative procedures pertaining to gender reassignment, aiming to prevent the infiltration of Western anti-family ideology. Additionally, in November of last year, a bill prohibiting any form of LGBTQ “propaganda” was approved by lawmakers. This decision has wide-ranging implications for the distribution of books and films. Russia has long been an unwelcoming environment for individuals with differing viewpoints from the Kremlin and the Orthodox church, championing a strict interpretation of traditional values. The country implemented a well-known ban on what is known as “gay propaganda” in 2013, and in 2020, same-sex marriage was effectively made illegal through a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. According to the Rainbow Europe organization, Russia ranked third from the bottom out of the 49 European countries in terms of LGBTQ tolerance.

The erosion of LGBTQ+ rights commenced ten years ago with a systematic campaign that gradually undermined their rights. In 2013, the Kremlin enacted the initial legislation, commonly referred to as the “gay propaganda” law, which prohibited the public portrayal of “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors, except when it was critical. Furthermore, in 2020, Putin successfully implemented a constitutional reform enabling him to remain in power for two additional terms, while also criminalizing same-sex marriage.

In 2022, following the deployment of troops in Ukraine, the Kremlin intensified its rhetoric concerning the safeguarding of “traditional values” against what it perceived as the detrimental impact of the West. Consequently, human rights defenders interpreted this as an endeavor to justify the conflict in Ukraine. Concurrently, the authorities introduced a law that banned the dissemination of propaganda relating to “nontraditional sexual relations” among adults, thereby effectively proscribing any public endorsement of   LGBTQ+ individuals.

Russia’s legislation has faced significant condemnation from various rights watchdogs, the European Court of Human Rights, and the UN Human Rights Committee. In 2018, the committee ruled that the law violated international human rights agreements. During a culture event in St. Petersburg on November 17, Putin acknowledged that LGBT individuals are also part of society and deserve recognition in arts and culture. However, he did not address the Justice Ministry’s lawsuit against the international LGBT movement. Additionally, Putin expressed that Russia does not have any conflict with European society but is currently facing challenging times with the European elite.

 Mental health professionals we consulted with highly echoed the sentiments expressed by LGBT youth. They discussed the growing sense of fear and anxiety among these young individuals since the legislation was implemented, as well as an increased demand for counselors who are well-versed in LGBT issues. However, they also highlighted the pervasive ignorance among psychologists and even self-imposed restrictions among those who understand the importance of addressing these issues and wish to positively contribute to the lives of LGBT youth. One psychologist described feeling constrained by the law, even in situations where discussing a child client’s sexual orientation is clinically relevant. He stated, ‘Teenagers often wait for me to directly and specifically inquire about their sexual orientation or gender identity, but the law prevents me from doing so.’ A social worker emphasized that the law effectively serves as a means of intimidation.

Reference: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/17/russia-seeks-to-outlaw-lgbtq-movement-as-extremist

Submitted by: Jagriti Tiwari, First year legal intern.

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