When it comes to driving, Russia is like the physical embodiment of chaos, an insane and dangerous place where anything can and will happen on the roads. The nation is trying to cut down on its vehicular mayhem, but it's doing so in a deplorable but increasingly typical way: penalizing transgender people and other individuals deemed to have "sexual disorders."
Numerous news outlets report that a new Russian legal amendment which became public in recent days that bans "fetishists, voyeurs, exhibitionists and transvestites" from driving.
The Guardian reports the new law is part of an attempt to dial back Russia's catastrophic rate of crashes and road fatalities, which are among the worst in the world. Some 30,000 people die and 250,000 are injured in crashes there annually. As such, they claim to be tightening medical restrictions for drivers to limit who's on the road.
The restrictions on who can qualify for a driver's license include a long list of mental and physical disabilities, but then they veer into sexuality, gender identity and sexual behavior. (It also bans kleptomaniacs and compulsive gamblers from driving, too.) From the Guardian:
But 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."
The law doesn't describe how a person's gender identity or sexual preference might impair their driving. (Because it doesn't, obviously.)
Not surprisingly, the move was condemned by gay activists, human rights groups and lawyers in and outside of Russia. From an AP report:
"The new Russian rules banning people from driving because of their gender identity are ridiculous and unlawful," Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, said in a message posted Friday on Facebook. He urged Russia "to immediately amend the rules to remove this ban."
And here's one from the U.S.-based Human Rights First:
"Banning people from driving based on their gender identity or expression is ridiculous and just another example of the Russian regime's methodical rollback of basic human rights for its citizens," said Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord. "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, and leaves the door open for increased harassment, persecution, and discrimination of transgender people by Russian authorities. We urge the United States to immediately condemn this provision and to press the Russian government to repeal this decision."
The list of international people who are furious at the move goes on and on. And why wouldn't they be? It seems to be yet another action in a long series of many seemingly designed to make life as miserable as possible in Russia for anyone who isn't cisgender, heterosexual, or able-bodied.
Photo credit AP