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Russian lawmakers overwhelmingly approve bill banning gender reassignment

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In a significant move that solidifies Russia’s ultra-conservative and anti-Western agenda, lawmakers in the lower house of parliament have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new legislation that would outlaw gender reassignment.

The proposed bill received unanimous support from all factions, marking a decisive step in the country’s increasingly conservative trajectory.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, issued a statement announcing the ban on gender reassignment in Russia. Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin emphasized the need to protect Russian citizens and children in a separate social media statement. He cited the perceived rise of gender reassignment in the United States, linking it to what he deemed the “degeneration” of the country, and declared such a trend unacceptable for Russia.

The newly approved legislation prohibits transition surgery, except in cases where children have congenital disorders, and prevents individuals from changing their gender on government-issued documents. These measures are subject to approval by the upper house of parliament and President Vladimir Putin, though they are widely anticipated to pass given the allegiance of Russian lawmakers to the Kremlin.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for the Kremlin, commented after the vote that concerns over the legislation may have been overstated. Nevertheless, the consequences of the new laws for the transgender community in Russia are expected to be far-reaching. According to the Duma, citizens who have already undergone gender reassignment will be forbidden from adopting children, and their marriages will be annulled.

Prior to the vote, Yan Dvorkin, a psychologist and leader of the Russian NGO “Centre T,” which supports transgender individuals, expressed concern about the potential increase in suicides resulting from the bill. He also highlighted the ban on hormone therapy, which will also be deemed illegal under the new rules, and warned of the emergence of a black market for hormones.

The Sphere group, a Russian advocacy organization that was ordered to close last year, described the new legislation as a continuation of the state’s ongoing assault on the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Russia has implemented a series of conservative measures, particularly targeting the LGBTQ+ community, as part of its broader efforts to suppress behaviors considered deviant and influenced by the West.

Prominent LGBTQ+ advocacy groups in the country have either been forced to shut down or labeled as “foreign agents,” a designation reminiscent of Soviet-era tactics that places undue administrative burdens on these organizations. In a recent development, Russia’s FSB security service announced the arrest of a transgender rights activist on charges of “high treason” for supporting the Ukrainian military.

Last year, Russian lawmakers passed a bill banning all forms of LGBTQ+ “propaganda,” which has had far-reaching implications for the publishing and distribution of books and films. The Bolshoi Theatre in Russia permanently dropped a ballet about dance legend Rudolf Nureyev due to the restrictive regulations, while publishers expressed concerns about the potential banning of Russian classics like Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita.”

Under President Putin’s long-standing rule, Russia has witnessed a deepening alliance between the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church, which has actively promoted conservative social values and cautioned against the influence of Western societies.

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