Russia seeks to outlaw LGBTQ movement as ‘extremist’
Justice Ministry files lawsuit in Supreme Court to ban ‘movement’ in most drastic step against the community so far.
Demonstrators wave gay rights’ movement rainbow flags at a Pride rally in Saint Petersburg, Russia [File: Olga Maltseva/AFP]Published On 17 Nov 202317 Nov 2023
Russian authorities have filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court to outlaw the LGBTQ “international public movement”, in the latest crackdown against the country’s beleaguered community.
The Ministry of Justice said it had “lodged an administrative legal claim” aimed at recognising the LGBTQ movement “as extremist and banning its activity in Russia”.
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The move is by far the most drastic step in the decade-long crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Russia unleashed under President Vladimir Putin, who has put “traditional family values” at the cornerstone of his rule.
The ministry did not specify whether it was seeking the closure of any specific groups or organisations, or if the designation would apply more broadly to the LGBTQ community, causes and individuals.
In a statement, it also accused the “LGBT movement operating on the territory of the Russian Federation” of “various signs and manifestations of extremism, including incitement to social and religious hatred”.
A court hearing is scheduled for November 30, the ministry said.
“Russian authorities are once again forgetting that the LGBT+ community are human beings,” said Dilya Gafurova, who heads the Sphere human rights group from exile.
Authorities “don’t just want to erase us from the public field: they want to ban us as a social group,” Gafurova added.
Law enforcement officers block participants of the LGBTQ community at a rally in Saint Petersburg, Russia [File: Anton Vaganov/ Reuters]
Crackdown intensified after invasion of Ukraine
Moscow’s crackdown against liberal-leaning groups has intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which has seen the LBGTQ community in the country face increasing curtailment of their rights.
The Kremlin has since ramped up its rhetoric about protecting “traditional values” from what it called the West’s “degrading” influence.
Russia has used the “extremist” label against swaths of rights organisations and opposition groups, opening up their members to criminal prosecution.
In July, lawmakers banned medical intervention and administrative procedures outlawing gender reassignment.
Lawmaker Pyotr Tolstoy said at the time that the measure was about “erecting a barrier to the penetration of Western anti-family ideology”.
Last November, lawmakers also approved a bill banning all forms of LGBTQ “propaganda”, a move with far-reaching consequences for book publishing and film distribution.
Russia has for years been an inhospitable environment for anyone whose views differ from the hardline interpretation of “traditional values” promoted by the Kremlin and the Orthodox church.
The country passed a notorious ban on so-called “gay propaganda” in 2013. Same-sex marriage was also effectively outlawed in 2020 by a constitutional amendment stipulating marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
Out of 49 European countries, the Rainbow Europe organisation ranked Russia third from bottom in terms of tolerance of LGBTQ people.