January 9, 2015 at 1:04 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Russia reportedly bans transgender drivers

VOLVO V60 T5 Drive-E, autos, gay news, Washington Blade

Russia has reportedly banned transgender people from driving vehicles.

LGBT rights advocates have criticized what they describe as the Russian government’s decision to ban transgender people from driving.

Human Rights First in a press release said Russian lawmakers on Dec. 29 approved a new regulation that prohibits those with “personality disorders” from obtaining a driver’s license and operating a vehicle. These include those who are trans and cross-dressers.

Human Rights First, a group with offices in D.C. and New York, said the restrictions took effect on Tuesday.

The Washington Blade was unable to obtain an English version of the new regulations and the trans-specific references they reportedly contain.

The Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights on its website said amputees, people with what it described as “hereditary eye diseases” and those who are shorter than 4’ 9” are also unable to obtain a driver’s license under the policy. The group said the new restrictions would affect women with “underdeveloped breasts” and people who visit sex shops, among others.

“The decision of [the] Russian government will cause [sic.] human rights violations,” said the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights.

“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,” added Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First in a press release. “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.”

Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, on Thursday described the regulation to the Blade as “incomprehensible and horrific on so many levels.”

The reported trans driver ban come against the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing LGBT crackdown.

President Vladimir Putin in 2013 signed into law a bill that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors.

Police in Moscow and St. Petersburg last February detained several LGBT rights advocates who tried to stage demonstrations ahead of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. Authorities during the games arrested transgender former Italian Parliamentarian Vladimir Luxuria twice after she protested the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record.

Russian police last October detained eight people who staged a National Coming Out Day protest outside a Moscow park.

Increased violence and discrimination in the country have prompted several LGBT Russians to seek asylum in the U.S.

“Restricting transgender people from obtaining driver’s licenses is simply another example of the Russian government’s increased campaign of persecution and discrimination against its LGBT population,” said Jean Freedberg of the Human Rights Campaign on Thursday.

Gaylord urged the White House to “immediately condemn this provision and to press the Russian government to repeal this decision.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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