Transition surgery is now banned in Russia and transgender people are subject to a welter of other restrictions under a harsh new law signed by President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday.
Aside from banning surgery and hormone therapy, the law also prohibits changing gender on official documents like passports, annuls any marriage when a spouse changes gender and bans adoptions by such couples. It was the latest step in an ongoing crackdown on L.G.B.T.Q. freedom in Russia, including a law passed in December against depictions of gay lifestyles — what the government called “gay propaganda.”
Russian officials who supported the new law aimed at transgender people portrayed it as another step by the country to assert its adherence to so-called traditional values — a position increasingly embraced by Moscow as it characterizes the war in Ukraine as a fight against Western powers.
“We have our Russian families, and the liberalization of such phenomena can be the first step on the road to hell,” Badma Bashenkaev, the chairman of the State Duma Committee on Health Protection, said when the ban passed the lower house of parliament unanimously on July 14.
Starting in the 1970s, the Soviet Union maintained a fairly progressive attitude toward such operations, which were guided by government-organized panels of medical experts. But in the face of repeated setbacks since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Kremlin officials have tried to use new laws to bolster support both domestically and internationally from people who oppose basic rights for minority groups, analysts said.
“The transgender ban is exactly that kind of manipulation, it resonates with people in order to amass support for the war and other things,” said Alexander Kondakov, a Russian sociologist who teaches at University College Dublin, Ireland.
Since Russia passed its law last December against depictions of gay lifestyles, the country has experienced a rise in both court cases against gay people and violence targeting them, analysts said. The new law, they added, will likely feed those trends.
Neil MacFarquhar is a national correspondent. Previously, as Moscow bureau chief, he was on the team awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. He spent more than 15 years reporting from around the Mideast, including five as Cairo bureau chief, and wrote two books about the region. More about Neil MacFarquhar
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