Russia has banned transsexuals from driving as part of a crackdown on those who supposedly pose a threat to road safety.
Cross-dressing and asexuality are among a range of conditions and behaviours that the government says could hinder driving ability. The long list includes those deemed to have sexual or “mental disorders”, such as fetishism, voyeurism and exhibitionism, as well as gambling addiction, pyromania and kleptomania.
Human rights activists have condemned the rules as an another assault on Russia’s gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The rules have been set out in an order signed by Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister. Some of medical conditions on the list are ones that the World Health Organisation identifies as “gender identity” and “sexual preference” disorders.
The government said that the measure was designed to reduce Russia’s horrific toll from traffic accidents caused by dangerous driving.
Poorly maintained roads, drink-driving — despite a zero tolerance approach by police — and widespread corruption that allows the dishonest to purchase driving licences without taking a test, have been contributing to 30,000 deaths and 250,000 injuries on Russia’s roads each year.
The Russian Association of Human Rights Lawyers plans to challenge what they called the “discriminatory” new law in the country’s Constitutional Court.
“People who fall in those classifications are legally capable. It doesn’t affect their driving in any way,” said Maria Bast, a lawyer with the group, who came out as a transgender woman in 2013.
Western critics regard the inclusion of sexual disorders in the list as another step towards marginalising sexual rights after Russia’s widely condemned adoption in 2013 of laws prohibiting the promotion of gay lifestyles to young people.
“Banning people from driving based on their gender identity is ridiculous,” said Shawn Gaylord, of the US-based advocacy group Human Rights First. “It is another example of the Russian regime’s methodical rollback of basic human rights for its citizens.”
Valery Evtushenko, of the Russian Psychiatric Association, said that some people would avoid seeking psychiatric help because they feared a driving ban. The law, he added, “may deter transgender people from seeking mental health services for fear of receiving a diagnosis that would strip them of their right to drive, [leaving] the door open for increased harassment, persecution, and discrimination of transgender people by the Russian authorities”.
Alexandr Kotov, of Russia’s Professional Drivers’ Union, welcomed the move. “We have too many deaths on the road and toughening medical requirements is justified,” Mr Kotov said, although he felt that the requirements should be less strict for non- professional drivers.
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