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14 Jul, 2023 12:54

Here is how Russia’s ban on ‘sex changes’ works

MPs said the legislation was necessary to crack down on a transgender industry which has been too lightly regulated
Here is how Russia’s ban on ‘sex changes’ works

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill imposing strict limits on people’s ability to legally change their sex or undergo gender reassignment surgery. The bill passed the lower chamber of parliament, the Russian State Duma, earlier this month.

Here is why MPs say they sponsored the legislation and how the new system will work.

Western ideology

The law aligns with the Russian government’s opposition to what senior officials have branded “transgender ideology” in the West. State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin cited rising US numbers of what are called ‘gender-affirming surgeries’ to argue that the limitations in Russia are necessary, claiming that the number of procedures has increased by 50 times over a decade.

The sponsors of the bill said that last year under 1,000 people asked to legally change their sex in Russia, which requires gender-affirming surgery. But the annual figure has been growing, they stressed, blaming a “sex change industry” which they say is targeting young people.

Medical malpractice

The MPs have also accused “malpracticing doctors, psychologists, [and] a developed network of LGBT organizations and activists” of pushing Russian youths into seeking ‘sex change’ treatments.

They claimed that one could find a private medical facility that would certify a patient’s medical need for transition without proper examination. The service would cost as little as $330, the bill’s sponsors said.

With the bill signed into law by Putin, only some federal-level clinics will be licensed to make the call on whether a patient needs to undergo sex-altering treatment. A medical council will be required to take such a decision in cases of “congenital anomalies, genetic and endocrine conditions, connected to abnormal formation of sexual organs in children.”

Legal status

The bill alters the Russian civil law in several ways. It permits only licensed clinics to issue certificates that allow a person to change legal sex on the national register.

A person’s decision to do that would automatically cause their marriage, if any, to be nullified. Russia only recognizes a union between a man and a woman as a marriage.

Such people will also be barred from adopting children or being legal guardians of minors.

The law has no retroactive power. People who undergo surgery before it comes into force and their healthcare providers won’t face repercussions. However, a licensed clinic will have to certify their medical condition before they can apply to change legal sex.

What trans activists say

Defenders of trans rights have blasted the legislation, saying it seriously diminishes the rights of transgender individuals in Russia. Some claimed it was motivated by transphobia.

Critics also pointed out that the bill’s wording leaves many questions unanswered, such as whether a doctor can perform mastectomy on a woman who is genetically predisposed to developing breast cancer.

Supporters, however, believe that those attacking the bill may have ulterior motives. Volodin’s deputy, Pyotr Tolstoy, said the pushback was similar “to when we banned surrogacy for foreigners (i.e. trade in children)” in December last year.

Tolstoy stated that sex changes were a “lucrative business for some” and a way for advocacy groups to gain influence.