Russia’s authorities have taken their crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights to a new level. The Ministry of Justice has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court with the intent of outlawing the “international public movement” for LGBTQ+ rights in the country.
The legal claim filed by the Ministry of Justice aims to label the LGBTQ+ movement as “extremist” and seeks to ban its activities within Russia.
This represents the most severe action taken in the decade long assault on LGBTQ+ rights under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, who has addressed “traditional family values” as a cornerstone of his rule.
The Ministry of Justice’s statement accuses the LGBTQ+ movement in Russia of displaying “various signs and manifestations of extremism, including incitement to social and religious hatred.”
However, the statement lacks specificity on whether the designation will apply to the entire LGBTQ+ community.
This move is part of a crackdown that has intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The Kremlin has been framing the protection of “traditional values” as a defense against the perceived “degrading” influence of the West.
The use of the “extremist” label has become a tool to target various rights organizations and opposition groups, subjecting their members to criminal prosecution.
The timeline of this repression includes legislative measures. In July, lawmakers passed a ban on medical interventions and administrative procedures related to gender reassignment, justifying it as a barrier against Western “anti-family ideology.”
Last November, a bill was approved banning all forms of LGBTQ+ “propaganda,” affecting book publishing and film distribution, and further restricting the community’s freedom of expression.
The Rainbow Europe organization ranked Russia third from the bottom out of 49 European countries in terms of LGBTQ+ tolerance.
The country’s inhospitable environment for those whose views differ from the Kremlin’s hardline interpretation of “traditional values” is exemplified by the 2013 ban on so-called “gay propaganda.” This ban, initially applicable to content accessible to children, has expanded over the years.
Same-sex marriage was outlawed in 2020 through a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
These legislative actions have created a climate of fear and discrimination, making it challenging for LGBTQ+ individuals to live openly in Russia.
The recent legal action targeting the “international LGBT public movement” has prompted outcry from both domestic and international human rights advocates.
Dilya Gafurova, head of the Sphere human rights group, expressed concern that Russian authorities are not only attempting to erase the LGBTQ+ community from the public sphere but also aiming to ban them as a social group.
Gafurova’s statement underlines the pattern observed in repressive non-democratic regimes, where populations become targets of persecution.
The proposed ban, if implemented, could subject LGBTQ+ activists to criminal prosecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, denying them the right to advocate for their rights peacefully.
Amnesty International‘s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Marie Struthers, condemned the move as a “deeply cynical” attempt to dehumanize the entire LGBTQ+ community.
Struthers addressed the high cost that the state aims to impose on LGBTQ+ individuals in Russia, a life lived in silence, fear, and the constant threat of humiliation.
The timing of this crackdown suggests a connection to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. Analysts speculate that the move might be a populist measure aimed at consolidating support ahead of the next presidential election, where Vladimir Putin is widely expected to seek a fifth term.
Igor Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBT Network, characterized this ideology as increasingly totalitarian, addressing the creation of imaginary enemies as a means of advancing the regime’s agenda.
While the exact definition of the “international LGBT public movement” remains unclear, the implications of the proposed ban are ominous.
The language used in the legal claim leaves room for interpretation, about the potential suppression of all legal activities associated with LGBTQ+ organizations in Russia.
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