Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled to designate LGBT activists as “extremists,” following a request from the justice ministry to ban the “international LGBT social movement.” This decision has raised concerns among representatives of the LGBTQ+ community, who fear it may lead to arrests and prosecutions.
The presiding judge endorsed the justice ministry’s request, part of a broader pattern of increasing restrictions on sexual orientation and gender identity expressions in Russia. Existing laws in the country already outlaw the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relations and prohibit legal or medical changes of gender.
U.N. human rights chief Volker Turk has called on Russian authorities to immediately repeal laws imposing improper restrictions on the work of human rights defenders and discriminating against LGBT individuals.
President Vladimir Putin, expected to seek a new six-year term, has long presented Russia as a guardian of traditional moral values in contrast to the West. In the past, he expressed the view that while the West could adopt various trends, it had no right to impose them on other countries.
The court’s decision, which followed a November 17 request by the justice ministry citing “various signs and manifestations of extremist orientation” in the activities of the LGBT movement, has drawn criticism from activists. The ruling could further stigmatize the LGBTQ+ community in Russia, with concerns raised about the lack of clarity in the court’s definition of the “LGBT movement,” leaving room for potential abuse of the law.
LGBT activists argue that the decision contradicts official statements claiming non-discrimination against the LGBTQ+ population and equal rights. One activist, Ada Blakewell, revealed having undergone involuntary “conversion therapy” for a year, expressing concerns that discussing such practices could become restricted following the court’s decision.
Public opinion in Moscow appears divided on the issue, with some advocating for a free and inclusive world where people can love whomever they choose, while others maintain a negative attitude toward same-sex relationships, supporting the court’s decision.
Russia has a history of designating various groups as “extremist,” with implications such as arrests following such classifications. The situation for the LGBTQ+ community in Russia, according to the U.N. Human Rights Office, is described as going “from bad to worse,” with the new ruling seen as a further repression of fundamental rights for this community.