Russian lawmakers have adopted a bill banning gender change in what is seen as a new blow to LGBTQ+ rights.
Lawmakers in Russia’s lower house of parliament have unanimously adopted a bill banning legally or medically changing gender, in a move seen as part of a further crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights under President Vladimir Putin.
The toughened version of the bill outlaws any medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person, as well as changing one’s gender on official documents and public records.
In addition, in its second reading on Thursday, clauses were added that annul marriages in which one person has “changed gender” and bar transgender people from becoming foster or adoptive parents.
The only exception to the new bill will be medical interventions to treat congenital anomalies.
Although it still needs to be passed by the Federation Council, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled upper chamber, the green light from the Duma all but guarantees the bill's ultimate passage into law.
Its approval is seen as part of the Kremlin’s crusade to protect what it views as the country’s “traditional values”, with Putin repeatedly saying that the West's acceptance of LGBTQ+ lifestyles is evidence of moral decay.
"We are the only European country that is now counteracting what is happening in the United States and Europe. And we're doing everything to protect the family and traditional values,” said the chairman of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin.
Speaking during the vote, he added that he believed there would be no future if Russia did not ban gender change.
"When someone changes gender just because the person wakes up in the morning and thinks he is no longer a boy, but a girl. That's what has to be stopped, because without family, without having children, there's no future, " he said.
The bill has rattled the country’s transgender community and has drawn criticism not only from LGBTQ+ rights advocates but from medical personnel as well.
They have warned that the ban will create a black market for hormone substitutes and lead to a spike in attempted suicides among young people unable to access medical care.
The crackdown on LGBTQ+ people started a decade ago when Putin first declared a focus on “traditional family values,” a move ardently supported by the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 2013, the Kremlin adopted the first legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights, known as the “gay propaganda” law, that banned any public endorsement of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors.
In 2020, Putin pushed through a constitutional reform that outlawed same-sex marriage.