Russia’s Justice Ministry has petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the “international LGBT public movement” as extremist, raising concerns over the potential persecution of LGBT activists and organizations. The ministry’s motion alleges signs of “extremist activity,” including inciting “social and religious strife.” While it remains unclear if the ban targets the entire LGBT community or specific organizations, the extremist label could expose activists to criminal prosecution, following a pattern used against rights organizations and opposition groups.
If the Supreme Court approves the ban on November 30, it would obstruct the operation of LGBT organisations, leaving activists vulnerable to criminal charges based on their sexual orientation or identity. Analysts view this move as a potential populist strategy ahead of Russia’s upcoming presidential election, where Vladimir Putin is anticipated to seek a fifth term. Putin’s administration has consistently cracked down on LGBT activism, framing it as part of a Western assault on “traditional Russian values.”
The restrictive legislation escalated after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In December of the same year, a law expanded the ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to all age groups, encompassing positive portrayals of same-sex relationships in media and advertising under categories like pornography or promoting violence. This year, transgender rights faced scrutiny, resulting in legislation prohibiting gender reassignment surgery.
While officials claim that “non-traditional sexual relations” are not banned in Russia and highlight legal protections, the move to label the international LGBT movement as extremist raises concerns about further marginalisation and persecution. Activists, facing pressure from the state and homophobic groups, often endure physical attacks. Dilya Gafurova, head of an LGBT charity who left Russia, emphasised the authorities’ aim to “ban us as a social group,” signalling an ongoing struggle for the rights of the LGBT community.