Russian authorities have taken steps to label the country’s LGBTQ+ rights movement as “extremist.” The Justice Ministry of Russia recently filed a lawsuit with the country’s Supreme Court, seeking to ban what it referred to as the “international LGBT public movement.” The authorities stated that they had identified “signs and manifestations of extremist nature” in the activities of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, including “incitement of social and religious discord.”
The lawsuit is set to be heard by the Russian Supreme Court on November 30. This move is part of a broader pattern in which Russian authorities have labeled human rights groups, independent media, and organizations opposing President Vladimir Putin’s regime as extremist, with some individuals facing prosecution and lengthy jail sentences.
The exact scope of the term “international LGBT public movement” remains unclear, and it is uncertain whether this refers to specific organizations or the LGBTQ+ community more broadly in Russia. Human rights activists and LGBTQ+ advocates have expressed deep concerns about the potential implications of this legal action.
Dilya Gafurova, a human rights activist who has left Russia, commented that Russian authorities are not merely attempting to “erase [the LGBTQ+ community] from the public field” but are seeking to ban them as a social group. Igor Kochetkov, the head of the Russian LGBT Network, warned that if the Supreme Court sides with the Justice Ministry, all legal activities of LGBTQ+ organizations in Russia would become impossible.
An LGBTQ+ activist in Russia described the potential ban as leading to criminal prosecution solely based on one’s sexual orientation or identity, further noting that activists already face pressure from the state and homophobic and transphobic groups, including physical attacks.
This lawsuit represents the latest in a series of measures by the Russian government to clamp down on LGBTQ+ rights. In 2013, President Putin signed a law banning LGBTQ+ “propaganda” in the presence of minors. In December 2021, Putin signed a law expanding the definition of LGBTQ+ “propaganda” to include any “promotion” of homosexuality in public, online, or in the media, effectively outlawing public expression of LGBTQ+ life in Russia.
Earlier this year, Putin signed a law banning transgender individuals from receiving gender-affirming care, changing their gender on official documents, fostering or adopting children, and having legal marriages, even requiring annulment of marriages involving at least one trans person.
The legal actions against LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations in Russia have raised significant concerns within the international community and have been widely criticized by human rights advocates and LGBTQ+ rights organizations worldwide.