“The police is off the leash.” Transgender sex workers are being expelled from Russia for “LGBT propaganda”
Оля Ромашова
“The police is off the leash.” Transgender sex workers are being expelled from Russia for “LGBT propaganda”
28 February 2023, 13:52

Иллюстрация: Борис Хмельный / Медиазона

After the ban on “LGBT propaganda” among Russians of all ages, Moscow law enforcement officers began prosecuting transgender sex workers for publishing ads on the Internet. From the police’s point of view, they are “publicly expressing interest in the appeal of non-traditional relationships.” Foreign women face deportation from Russia. Mediazona has studied the first court decisions in this new practice.

President Vladimir Putin signed a new repressive law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships, preferences, and gender reassignment” among people of any age on December 5, 2022. Since then, the Moscow City Court has registered seven administrative protocols on “LGBT propaganda,” and decisions on four of them are already published.

The first three protocols under part 7 of article 6.21 of the Administrative Code were drawn up for transgender foreign women who had engaged in sex work in Russia and advertised their services on the Internet. Apparently, all three reports were filed by the same policeman, who used the same scheme in all of the cases: they went to the website with the profiles of sex workers, found foreign women and retold the wording of the ads, which, in their opinion, contained “LGBT propaganda.”

All three protocols went to Moscow's Savelovsky District Court for consideration, and all three women pleaded guilty in court. Judge Nikolai Mazurov in all three cases agreed with the police officer's arguments, fined the women, and ruled to expel them from Russia. The police reports, sex workers' explanations, acts of inspection of websites and photographic materials were cited as evidence.

“In their protocols for an administrative offense, the police need to indicate what constitutes ‘propaganda.’ Then the case goes to court and the judge decides whether the imputed actions are in fact ‘propaganda.’ The judge has the right to make such a decision independently; according to law, an expert examination is not required in this case,” explains lawyer Maxim Olenichev, who specializes in protecting the rights of transgender people.

The protocols contain passport data of all three detainees. In these documents, they are indicated as men. Trans organizations consider this practice unethical, so Mediazona refers to the women as they presented themselves.

For the purpose of prevention, detection, and suppression...

On January 16 the police officer drew up the first report on the results of Internet monitoring, which, as the document says, he conducted in office #14 “in order to prevent, detect, and suppress propaganda of non-traditional relationships.” On a website with advertisements for transgender sex workers, the police officer found “a questionnaire on the provision of intimate services of non-traditional sexual relations,” signed by Alana. He noted that in the photos Alana, “being a person of the male sex,” poses “in women's underpants, with naked breasts, dark hair, with makeup on the face.” In the questionnaire the woman, according to the police officer, “publicly expresses an interest in the attractiveness of non-traditional relationships.” In addition, she, “being a male person, writes about himself using female gender, specifying the presence of a penis”—all of this the policeman considered information “aimed at forming non-traditional sexual relationships.”

The second report was composed in the same room #14 two days later, on January 18. This time the policeman found an ad of a girl named Nastya. “[Name], being a person of the male sex, in her profile posted a photo in a female image with naked female breasts and male genitalia (penis), with dark long hair, with makeup on her face,” the material said. Nastya “publicly expresses an interest in the attractiveness of non-traditional relationships” and, “being a person of the male gender, writes about himself using female gender,” the police officer concluded, repeating the wording from the report on Alana verbatim.

The third protocol was drawn up on February 3 in the same ill-fated office #14. This time a transgender woman named Maya attracted the attention of the police. The court ruling cites her ad with the officer's comments: “[Name], being a male person, posts photos in a female image, namely in female clothes (skirt), with signs of female breasts, with long blonde hair, makeup, and naked male genitalia (penis). After the photos there the information about herself can be found, where [name] writes about himself using female forms: ‘I am a young, sexy and liberated brunette, with an ass that will definitely drive you crazy. I can make all your most intimate and passionate fantasies a reality! INVITE ME OVER AND ENJOY ME!!! CALL ME AND DON'T BE SHY. All photos are my own, and I'm even better in real life.’” In the questionnaire on the site, there are also “parameters of physiological data,” “non-traditional services,” and “type of appearance corresponding to the female sex,” the police officer specified.

There's also a fourth protocol, from Moscow's Timiryazevsky district court, which quotes the same part 7 of Article 6.21 of the Administrative Code. It is slightly different from the first three, but echoes them in much of the wording. On January 24, a police officer from one of Moscow's police departments in office #211 found “a questionnaire about the provision of intimate services of non-traditional sexual relations” on the social networking site Drug Vokrug.

“[Name] publicly expresses an interest in the appeal of non-traditional relationships, indicates sexual preferences. [Name] is a male citizen, in his questionnaire he posts photos in a female dress and a wig with long hair, he also writes about himself using feminine form: Amina, I am not a girl, men ayelmasman,” the ruling reads.

Judge of the Timiryazevsky court Olga Levashova ruled to arrest Amina for 5 days and expel them from the country.

The police is “off the leash”

“Transgender sex workers are one of the most vulnerable groups in the LGBT community. First, because of the overall existing LGBT stigma,” says Maxim Olenichev. “Secondly, because prostitution is an administrative offense in Russia, which allows police to separately prosecute sex workers in the country, pushing their activities out of the legal framework. Thirdly, transgender sex workers are often citizens of Central Asian states, where gender transition is difficult.”

According to the lawyer, in order to undergo gender affirmative procedures and get rid of gender dysphoria, they have to move to another country. “In Russia, the stigmatization of transgender people often forces them to make a living through prostitution—because employers often refuse to hire them,” Olenichev adds.

The adoption of the new law against LGBT people “has let the police off the leash.” The Ministry of Internal Affairs “began consider the lifestyles of transgender sex workers as a part of this concept as well,” Olenichev states. Such migrant women are often in Russia illegally, and the police, in pursuing them, solve two problems at once, argues the lawyer: “Increasing the number of cases of ‘gay propaganda’—during the period when this law in its previous version was in effect from 2013 to 2022, no more than 123 people were charged—and supposedly fighting ‘illegal migration.’” Expulsion entails a five-year ban on entering Russia, and transgender women may face danger in their home country, he stresses.

Editor: Dmitry Tkachev

Translator: Daria Fomina

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