By Elsa Buchanan,
Russia says drivers must not have ‘sex disorders’, and has listed transsexual and transgender people as those who will no longer qualify for driving licences.
Russia has banned transsexuals and people with “disorders” involving sexual preference and gender identity, including exhibitionists and fetishists, from obtaining driver’s licenses.
The new law, aimed at “promoting public health” by reducing traffic deaths, extends Russia’s legal campaign against homosexuality.
The decree, signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, empowers officials to ban transsexual and transgender people from driving, along with others suffering from such “mental disorders”. The ban applied to those with “gender identity disorders, disorders of sexual preference and psychological and behavioural disorders associated with sexual development and orientation.”
The rules apply to fetishism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, compulsive theft, or “pathological” gambling and extends to people with schizophrenia, “mood” disorders and “neurotic, stress-related” problems.
According to the Kremlin, which declared it is tightening medical controls for drivers because Russia has too many road accidents, those with “mental disorders” are more likely to crash.
The move has been condemned by psychiatrists and human rights groups.
One of them, Valery Evtushenko, of the Russian Psychiatric Association, voiced concern about the driving restrictions.
He told the BBC Russian Service some people would avoid seeking psychiatric help, fearing a driving ban.
Mikhail Strakhov, a Russian psychiatric expert, told BBC Russian Service that “personality disorders” was too vague and some disorders would not affect a person’s ability to drive a car safely.
According to the BBC, the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights called the new law “discriminatory”, and said it would demand clarifications from the Russian Constitutional Court and seek support from international human rights organisations.
Russia has defended the restrictions by citing the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. However, the WHO’s guide contains this note: “Sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder.”
The Russian Professional Drivers Union endorsed the restrictions.
“We have too many deaths on the road, and I believe toughening medical requirements for applicants is fully justified,” the union’s head Alexander Kotov, said to the local media.
While Kotov did support the ban for professionals (trucks and bus drivers for example) to improve safety on the country’s notoriously deadly roads, he said it was too strict for others.
This ban follows international outrage at Russia’s position on homosexuality and their harassment of gay-rights activists prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics.
A report by the US-based group Human Rights Watch, (HRW) which documents a rise in homophobic rhetoric, actions and violence in Russia, blames a law passed last year banning the promotion of “non-traditional lifestyles” among minors.
The measure is aimed at gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. One LGBT support group cited by HRW documented more than 300 homophobic attacks in 2014, a more than tenfold rise.