Russia bans transgender people from driving

Regulations, which affect people deemed to have ‘sexual disorders’, condemned by human rights activists as discriminatory

Transgender people have been banned from driving in Russia, according to a new legal amendment published this week. The regulations, which affect people deemed to have “sexual disorders”, also affect fetishists, voyeurs, exhibitionists and transvestites. They were immediately condemned by human rights activists as discriminatory.

The amendment to the law listing medical impediments to driving was signed by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev at the end of last year, but only published this week. Russia has some of the worst figures for road fatalities in the world, and the new regulations are part of a government programme aimed at reducing the number of people road deaths. Official figures say 30,000 people die and 250,000 are injured on the roads every year.

The amendments give a long list of physical and mental disabilities that are legal impediments to driving, including conditions such as serious visual impairment or paralysis. However, the most controversial section is the list of sexual preferences and conditions given, including paedophilia, sado-masochism and exhibitionism, as well as “fetishism”, which is described as people who gain sexual arousal from inanimate objects.

Transsexuals and transvestites are also on the list, which is drawn from the World Health Organisation’s list of “gender identity disorders” and “disorders of sexual preference”.

Yelena Masyuk, a member of the Kremlin’s own human rights council, wrote online that the amendment should be scrutinised. “I don’t understand why, for example, fetishists, kleptomaniacs or transsexuals should be banned from driving a car,” she said. “I think this is a violation of the rights of Russian citizens.”

The move was also criticised by international rights activists, who said it could create a climate of fear.

“Banning people from driving based on their gender identity or expression is ridiculous and just another example of the Russian regime’s methodical roll back of basic human rights for its citizens,” said Shawn Gaylord of US-based organisation Human Rights First. “Beyond the denial of basic freedoms, this provision may deter transgender people from seeking mental health services for fear of receiving a diagnosis that would strip them of their right to drive.”

Russia has also drawn a huge amount of international criticism for a recent law that bans the "propaganda of homosexuality" to minors.– (Guardian service)