On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law that prohibits sex reassignment surgeries. The legislation aims to impose stricter regulations on what lawmakers refer to as the “transgender industry” and effectively bans legal sex changes and medical interventions related to transitioning, unless deemed medically necessary.
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Under the new law, gender reassignment therapy, including drugs and surgeries, will only be allowed in cases where it is essential for treating reproductive organ deformities in children. Decisions on such treatments and the issuance of relevant certificates will be limited to licensed clinics affiliated with the Russian Health Ministry.
Furthermore, individuals can no longer freely change their gender on identification documents. Those who have already done so will be prohibited from adopting children under the new law. Additionally, if one spouse changes their gender, married couples may have their marriages invalidated.
According to Russian Deputy Health Minister Evgenia Kotova, the number of legally changed genders in the country reached over 2,000 between 2018 and 2022, during the period when the practice was still legal.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin criticized what he termed the “Western transgender industry” and defended the rationale behind the law. He pointed out that gender reassignment surgeries in the US have surged by 50 times in the last decade, and approximately 1.4% of US teenagers between 13 and 17 identified as transgender in 2022.
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He argued that this trend could lead to the degradation of a nation, and the new law is meant to prevent such a scenario.
The new legislation maintains provisions for treating relevant medical conditions. “There are conditions that can be identified during childhood,” the Duma head stated. “Yet, when a person changes sex because they woke up in the morning and decided they are not a boy but a girl, that is just wrong,” the Duma chief explained.
According to Valentina Matvienko, a prominent Russian senator, the law has garnered “many positive responses from European nations.”
Despite this, the law faced criticism from transgender rights activists, who argue that it significantly curtails the rights of transgender individuals in Russia. Critics also raised concerns that the wording of the legislation introduces ambiguity regarding the treatment of certain non-gender reassignment-related medical conditions, such as mastectomy for women with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer.
In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov assured that experts thoroughly reviewed all these matters during the bill’s parliamentary debate. He stated that all relevant questions had been addressed and risks associated with the law had been minimized.