Russian lawmakers are poised to vote on a law that would prohibit transgender individuals from officially changing their gender to match their identity.
The law, known as “Mizulina’s law,” named after Yelena Mizulina, the conservative lawmaker who proposed it, is scheduled to be considered by the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, later this month.
The legislation would amend Russia’s Family Code to “strengthen the institution of the family” by introducing a host of anti-LGBTQ provisions, including banning same-sex marriage and adoption by LGBTQ couples.
While same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Russia, couples who married abroad have been able to register their marriages through a legal loophole, which Mizulina’s law seeks to close.
The law is a direct appeal to social conservatives who helped pass a voter-approved referendum in July that made several constitutional reforms primarily designed to keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in power. Putin has made his opposition to LGBTQ rights well known, on the grounds that acknowledging such rights threatens “traditional family values.”
For transgender individuals, the law is especially complicated, as transgender people who have already transitioned and received new birth certificates recognizing their gender identity may have to return their vital documents and accept identification that only recognizes their assigned sex at birth, unless the changes are approved by a court beforehand.
For married transgender people, the changes could be especially pernicious, as their marriage might be annulled. For example, if a transgender male were married to a cisgender wife, the government would effectively refuse to recognize his gender identity, and would outlaw his marriage because it would consider it a same-sex union, which would be prohibited under law.
“Trans people in Russia already occupied a precarious position vis-à-vis the law, and regressing legal standards further accomplishes nothing but to score cheap political points,” Kyle Knight, a senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Moscow Times.
Yekaterina Messorosh, an activist with the St. Petersburg-based trans rights group T-Action, said the group has seen a significant increase in calls to its counseling hotline since Mizulina’s law was introduced.
She noted that many people are worried that passage of the legislation will send a larger message to Russian society that it is acceptable to harass, mistreat, or discriminate against LGTBQ people.
“It is primarily aimed at declaring LGBT people — and in this case, trans people separately and especially — second-class citizens,” Messorosh said.
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