How will Russia's tough new law affect trans people?

Tuesday, 25 July 2023 12:30 GMT

A law enforcement officer stands guard during the LGBT community rally "X St.Petersburg Pride" in central Saint Petersburg, Russia August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Image Caption and Rights Information
LGBTQ+ activists say the law signed by Vladimir Putin this week could lead to a rise in suicides and a black market for hormones
  • Putin signs new law targeting transgender Russians
  • Law bans legal gender change and medical transition
  • Trans people could turn to black market for hormones

By Lucy Middleton

LONDON, July 25 (Openly) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that bans transgender people from changing their gender on ID documents or undergoing transition-related medical care such as surgery and hormone therapy.

Campaigners have condemned the legislation, the latest rollback of LGBTQ+ rights in Russia, warning that it could fuel mental health problems among trans people and prompt some to turn to unregulated and potentially dangerous treatments.

Here's what you need to know.

What does the law say?

The law bars trans Russians from changing their legal gender on identity documents - which has been permitted since 1997 - and stops health workers from providing gender-affirming medical care such as surgery or hormone therapy.

Trans people who have changed gender legally before the law goes into force this week will not be affected, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

The law also bans trans people from adopting or fostering children, and annuls marriages where one person has changed gender.

It only allows for genital surgery to be performed on intersex babies to make them conform to norms of male and female bodies, a practice banned by numerous countries on the grounds that it is medically unnecessary and can cause psychological harm.

What do trans rights groups say?

Trans rights advocates fear the law could create an unregulated black market for hormones and lead to an increase in suicide among young people unable to access medical care.

"This ... sets us back 20 years, when people sought for forums (to get hormones illegally)," one 30-year-old trans woman, who asked not to be named, told Openly by phone from Saint Petersburg in June, ahead of the law's second reading.

The Russian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the law "protects our citizens (and) children" in a post on the Telegram messenger app after it passed its third reading.

Putin has repeatedly said LGBTQ+ lifestyles run counter to traditional Russian values, and that Western acceptance of sexual and gender minorities is a sign of moral degeneracy.

Russia introduced an anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law in 2013, which outlawed the promotion of homosexuality to minors. The law was later expanded in December last year to effectively outlaw any public expression of LGBTQ+ behaviour or lifestyle.

Which countries have similar laws?

Russia is believed to be the first country to completely reverse rights on transitioning, said Vanya Solovey, a programme officer at rights network Transgender Europe (TGEU).

"It's the first to take away so many rights in a single move, when they were available before," he said.

Hungary in 2020 banned trans people from changing their gender on official documents, while a similar draft law was proposed in Slovakia this year.

In the United States, at least 19 states have enacted bans or restrictions on transgender medical care, according to an article in the British Medical Journal in May.

This article was updated on July 25, 2023 after Putin signed the law.

Related stories:

Russian LGBTQ+ museum closes after new law bans 'gay propaganda' 

Russian streaming site fined for showing 'LGBT film' without 18+ rating

Russian sexologists to target homosexuality, other 'disorders' under new rules

(Reporting by Lucy Middleton; Editing by Helen Popper. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Update cookies preferences