Russia top court bans LGBTQ+ activism as 'extremist'

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of designating the "international LGBT social movement" as extremist in a lawsuit that had no defendants

The justice ministry in Russia has banned all activities related to the LGBTQ movement (photo: DW)
The justice ministry in Russia has banned all activities related to the LGBTQ movement (photo: DW)


Russia's Supreme Court on 30 November ruled to designate LGBTQ+ activists as "extremists" and ban their activities, in the latest move against expressions of sexual orientation and gender in Russia. 

The justice ministry had requested the recognition of "the international LGBT social movement" as extremist and to ban its activities. Both the court and the ministry have referred to a "movement" in their statements. 

The ministry filed the lawsuit earlier this month, saying that authorities had identified "signs and manifestations of an extremist nature" by an LGBTQ+ "movement" operating in Russia. 

In its statement announcing the lawsuit, the ministry claimed that such activism included "incitement of social and religious discord." However, it offered no details or evidence.

'Nonexistent organisation'

Max Olenichev, a human rights lawyer who works with the Russian LGBTQ+ community, noted the ministry's odd phrasing in remarks to Associated Press (AP) news agency before the hearing.

"Despite the fact that the Justice Ministry demands to label a nonexistent organisation — '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 LGBTQ+ initiatives that work in Russia, considering them a part of this civic movement," Olenichev said. 

The Supreme Court held the hearings behind closed doors, and there was no defendant in the case. According to AP, some LGBTQ+ activists had tried to become a party to the lawsuit on the basis that it concerns their rights, but were rejected by the court.

Russian crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights

In 2013, Russia adopted its first legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights. Since then, the country has passed several laws to clamp down on such rights. Last year, the Russian parliament passed a so-called "gay propaganda" law that effectively made it illegal to refer to LGBTQ+ relationships in any kind of positive light.

Lawmakers also passed a law earlier this year to prohibit gender-transitioning procedures and gender-affirming care. The legislation banned changing one's gender in official documents and public records and amended Russia's Family Code by listing gender change as a reason to annul a marriage. 

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