Russia’s top court bans LGBT+ activism as ‘extremist’ in new crackdown

Russia’s top court has ruled that LGBT+ activists should be designated as “extremists” and issued a ban against such work – the most drastic step in a years-long crackdown on the community in ther country.

The move effectively outlaws LGBT+ activism across the country, in a move that representatives of the gay and transgender communities fear will lead to arrests and prosecutions.

The hearing took place behind closed doors and with no defendant. Multiple rights activists have pointed out that the lawsuit targeted the “international civic LGBT movement,” which is not an entity but rather a broad and vague definition that would allow Russian authorities to crack down on any individuals or groups deemed to be part of the “movement.”

In a statement announcing a lawsuit filed to the court earlier this month, Russia’s Justice Ministry argued that authorities had identified “signs and manifestations of an extremist nature” by an LGBTQ+ “movement” operating in Russia, including “incitement of social and religious discord,” although it offered no details or evidence. In its ruling, the court declared the “movement” to be extremist and banned it in Russia.

“Despite the fact that the Justice Ministry demands to label a nonexistent organization – ‘the international civic LGBT movement’ – extremist, in practice it could happen that the Russian authorities, with this court ruling at hand, will enforce it against LGBT+ initiatives that work in Russia, considering them a part of this civic movement,” Max Olenichev, human rights lawyer who works with the Russian LGBT+ community, told The Associated Press ahead of the hearing.

The ruling is the latest in more than a decade of restrictions on LBGT+ rights under Vladimir Putin, who has put what he calls “traditional family values” at the centre of his appeal to the Russian public.

In 2013, the Kremlin adopted legislation known as the “gay propaganda” law, banning any public endorsement of “nontraditional sexual relations” to children. In 2020, constitutional reforms pushed through by Mr Putin to extend his rule by two more terms also included a provision to outlaw same-sex marriage.

After sending troops into Ukraine in 2022, the Kremlin ramped up its comments about protecting “traditional values” from what it called the West’s “degrading” influence, in what many have seen as an attempt to legitimise the war. That same year, the authorities adopted a law banning propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” among adults, also, effectively outlawing any public endorsement of LGBT+ people.

Another law passed earlier this year prohibited gender transitioning procedures and gender-affirming care for transgender people. The legislation prohibited any “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records. It also amended Russia’s Family Code by listing gender change as a reason to annul a marriage and adding those “who had changed gender” to a list of people who can’t become foster or adoptive parents.

Associated Press contrinuted to this report

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