On Dec. 29, Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev signed into law a decree making it illegal for people deemed to suffer from sexual disorders to drive. The broad and vague notice seemed to include transgender people as well as others suffering from various dysfunctions stemming from sexual preference. In fine print the legislation did add however, that sexual orientation by itself was not to be considered a disorder.
The document outlined certain conditions that barred citizens from driving. Most of the medical conditions included were physical disabilities that limited a person’s ability to drive including blindness or loss of limbs. The law however also referenced behavioral and mental disorders listed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Dual-role transvestism and transsexualism fell under sexual disorders that barred an individual from driving. Also included in the category were pedophilia, sadomasochism, and exhibitionism.
The new provision was viewed as yet another step by the Kremlin to impose on LGBT rights. The Kremlin adopted a “homosexual propaganda” ban back in 2013 as part of their campaign against promoting non-traditional lifestyles. The “On Road Safety” law restricting driving uses the WHO’s current classification of illnesses manual commonly referred to as ICD-10. According to Moscow, a variety of different mental disorders are considered the root of many auto accidents in the Communist country.
Close to 28,000 fatalities occurred on the streets of Russia per the Kremlin and certain medical conditions are to blame. Russia also listed kleptomania or compulsive stealing and pathological gambling as mental disorders barring people from driving or obtaining new drivers licenses. Individuals with stress-related medical issues, mood disorders, and schizophrenia have also been swept under the broad decree.
The International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems does not expressly categorize homosexuality as a sexual disorder but a Russian citizen who is wanting to change their orientation or gender due to associated behavioral and psychological disorders runs the risk of being effected by the law making driving illegal. These individuals can be diagnosed with egodystonic sexual orientation, making it against the law for them to get behind the wheel. Russian law enforcement has been known to enforce regulations in such a manner that a stricter interpretation of the law would not enforce. This would not be considered a factor if in fact, officials are wanting to encroach on what they view as sexual immorality.
The decree is considered to be biased according to the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights. The new provisions restrict significantly the freedoms and rights of people as a whole. The organization planned to seek clarification from the Constitutional Court of Russia as well as support from international communities.
Russian psychiatric specialist, Mikhail Strakhov, told BBC Russian that the term “personality disorder” was vague and that some “mental disorders” did not impair driving. Russian Psychiatric Association member, Valery Evtushenko, said that the new legislation could discourage potential patients from seeking psychiatric assistance because of the driving ban.
Not everyone is against the new Russian provision making it illegal for people with a “sexual disorder”to drive. The Professional Drivers Union lauded the new bill corroborating the notion that many accidents could be avoided with tighter controls. Alexander Kotov, the union head, believed that toughening the medical restrictions on licensees was justified. He added that while the new restrictions were welcomed, restrictions should not be so restrictive for non-professional drivers.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Niklas Emmerich – Flickr License