Russian authorities are reportedly threatening to arrest gay men who have fathered children to surrogate mothers, in yet another move to crack down on sexual minorities.
A report by The Independent cites a source in Russia’s Investigative Committee, who equated LGBTQ surrogacy to “baby trafficking,” on the grounds that it is an offense for men with “non-traditional orientation” to provide sperm for in vitro fertilization.
“We plan to arrest a number of suspects, single men, and Russian citizens, who have used surrogate mothers to give birth to children,” the source, whose identity was not revealed, told the British newspaper.
The Kremlin has not yet issued a statement supporting the source’s allegations. But a quote in Russia’s state news agency, TASS, appeared to signal that the government will be probing into the private lives of its citizens in order to demonstrate its hostility to surrogacy.
State investigators recently arrested seven adults in relation to a case involving the death of a baby who appears to have died of SIDS. The baby was discovered with two women and four other children in a Moscow apartment.
Investigators claimed the baby and the other children were victims of trafficking, and arrested medical staff and lawyers who had facilitated the arrangement.
The children, conceived via surrogacy, were being cared for by two nannies and were waiting to be taken home by Filipino parents. The parents are now suing the government for “abducting” their children.
“Babies, unfortunately, do die, and especially when we are talking about [in vitro fertilization] technology,” Igor Trunov, a lawyer for the parents, said. “Whatever you do, you should not believe state investigators when they say they are acting out of interests of child welfare. They have chosen to send three eleven-month-old kids to a children’s psychiatric facility.”
Trunov claims state investigators’ case against his clients was weak, and public opinion largely sided with the parents. So, to change public opinion, the government began talking about gay men fathering children and linking surrogacy, tenuously, to human trafficking.
“They want to connect baby trafficking to the idea of sexual orientation, knowing how that resonates with the wider public,” Trunov said. “They understand no one is going to stand up for gays.”
See also: Proposed Russian law would prohibit transgender people from officially changing their gender
Russian law allows for couples and single women to consent to in vitro fertilization treatments, but has no law explicitly granting that same right to single men. However, courts have previously ruled in favor of men who father children via surrogacy.
State media reports claim investigators are poised to arrest at least 10 unmarried men and charge them with trafficking children.
But LGBTQ activist Igor Kochetkov said that while people have a right to be concerned about the government’s rhetoric, he didn’t want to jump to conclusions as to future actions authorities might take.
“This could be the initiative of the State Investigative Committee alone,” he said. It could just be their own very weird point of view. We can’t yet be sure it’s a done deal across the government.”
Last year, Russian authorities threatened to use the country’s 2013 law prohibiting the dissemination of “gay propaganda” to revoke the parental rights and seize the children of a same-sex couple.
That family later fled the country to avoid the children being taken away, while Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal case against the social workers who had allowed the couple to adopt the children.
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