On November 30, 2023, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the LGBTQ movement, both domestic and international, as an extremist organization, banning all associated activities within the country. This step in the decade-long crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Russia, an escalation in the government’s efforts to suppress the gay, lesbian, and transgender community.
The court’s decision which came after a closed doors hearing, categorizes LGBTQ activists as extremists, concerns among representatives of the LGBTQ community about arrests and prosecutions.
The ruling did not specify whether it would target specific individuals or organizations, leaving the LGBTQ community in a state of uncertainty and fear.
The legal basis for the decision was filed by the Ministry of Justice, which argued that there were signs and manifestations of an extremist nature within the LGBTQ movement.
The vague wording of the ruling has alarmed human rights activists, as it provides scope for the authorities to persecute any individual or organization they consider part of the so-called international LGBT public movement.
This decision is part of a trend of increasing restrictions on LGBTQ rights in Russia. The country has seend a series of laws aimed at curbing the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ community.
The legal crackdown has intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the previous year, with the Kremlin framing the protection of traditional values as a response to the perceived influence of the West.
Russia’s constitution was amended three years ago to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, excluding same-sex unions.
The current ruling aligns with President Vladimir Putin’s emphasis on traditional family values as a cornerstone of his rule.
The timing of the decision is coinciding with the lead-up to the presidential election scheduled for the next year. The Supreme Court’s ruling has condemnation from both domestic and international quarters.
Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have described the decision as shameful and absurd, warning that it may result in a ban on LGBTQ organizations and violate fundamental freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly.
The LGBTQ community in Russia has faced pressure and discrimination in recent years. In 2013, the gay propaganda law was introduced, prohibiting the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.
Legislative measures extended these restrictions to all age groups and introduced penalties for promoting LGBTQ propaganda.
The legal restrictions have also targeted medical interventions related to gender reassignment, with a ban on gender transition procedures enacted earlier this year. A law criminalizing LGBTQ propaganda among adults was signed into law.
Activists fear that the vague language of the decision will embolden authorities to crackdown not only on recognized organizations but also on individuals expressing support for LGBTQ rights.
Many have expressed concerns about the lengthy prison sentences for those part of the international LGBT public movement.
Many have also criticized the Russian government’s actions, highlighting the implications for human rights and the suppression of dissenting voices.
The move to label LGBTQ activists as extremists follows a pattern where the government has used the extremist label to target various groups, including human rights organizations and political opposition figures.
The Russian government against LGBTQ rights and the liberal agenda has intensified since the invasion of Ukraine.
President Putin has framed the protection of traditional values as a defense against the perceived degradation of Western influence.
This has found resonance among conservative segments of Russian society. Human rights activists and organizations are mobilizing to offer support and guidance.
Transgender rights groups, such as Center T, have announced plans to publish safety guidelines for LGBTQ individuals.
The director of Center T, Yan Dvorkin, who fled Russia citing security concerns, characterized the legal proceeding as a new low point of insanity.