MOSCOW: Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled that LGBTQ activists should be designated as “extremists”, in a move that representatives of gay and transgender people fear will lead to arrests and prosecutions.
The court ruled on Thursday that “the international LGBT public movement and its subdivisions” were extremist, and issued a “ban on its activities on the territory of Russia”.
The move is the most drastic step in the decade-long crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Russia unleashed under President Vladimir Putin, who has put “traditional family values” at the cornerstone of his rule.
The ruling, which the judge said would be effective immediately, did not specify whether certain individuals or organisations would be affected.
The hearing took place behind closed doors and without any defence present, Russian media reported ahead of the verdict. Reporters were allowed in to hear the decision.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters before the court decision was announced that the Kremlin was “not following” the case and had no comment on it.
‘New low point’
“One day, it will be over but for now, we need to try to continue to live and save ourselves,” the Feminist Anti-War Resistance, which is critical of Russia’s war in Ukraine, said on social media in response to the verdict.
Other NGOs, including transgender rights group “Center T”, said they would publish safety guidelines for members of the LGBTQ community.
Its director, Yan Dvorkin, who fled Russia citing security concerns, called the legal proceeding a “new low point of insanity”.
Amnesty International called the ruling “shameful and absurd,” warning in a statement that it might result in a blanket ban on LGBTQ organisations and violate freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, and lead to discrimination.
Moscow’s crackdown against liberal-leaning groups has intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which has seen the LBGTQ community in the country face increasing curtailment of their rights.
The Kremlin has since ramped up its rhetoric about protecting “traditional values” from what it called the West’s “degrading” influence.
Dvorkin said he believed LGBTQ people were being used as scapegoats by Russian authorities.
“They’re losing the war. This makes people very frustrated and dissatisfied with the government. It’s very easy to take that anger out on LGBTQ people.”
In July, lawmakers banned medical intervention and administrative procedures outlawing gender reassignment.
Lawmaker Pyotr Tolstoy said at the time that the measure was about “erecting a barrier to the penetration of Western anti-family ideology”.
Last November, lawmakers also approved a bill banning all forms of LGBTQ “propaganda”, a move with far-reaching consequences for book publishing and film distribution.
Out of 49 European countries, the Rainbow Europe organisation ranked Russia third from bottom in terms of tolerance of LGBTQ people.