Photo: Sergey Petrov / NEWS.ru / TASS
In the first reading, Russian State Duma has passed a draft bill that prohibits the change of gender markers in official documents and gender-affirming healthcare. The legislation received unanimous support from 365 deputies. We are publishing an abridged transcript of the plenary session with quotes from deputies discussing the bill.
Editor’s Note. While Mediazona has made an earnest attempt to maintain the fidelity of the original quotes during translation, the deputies’ manner of speaking is often opaque even in Russian which can render the translated text incomprehensible. Therefore, we’ve opted to make a few adjustments for clarity and readability.
Petr Tolstoy, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, United Russia Party: This is not just another prohibitive initiative of the State Duma, it’s another step towards protecting national interests. We adopt [these measures] because Russia has changed since the start of the special military operation. And those young people who are today defending our country, weapon in hand, they must return to a different country, not the one that existed before the start of the special military operation. It’s a pity that many still don’t understand this for various reasons, and many simply wait, hoping nothing will change, that everything will remain as before. Nothing will remain as before.
I want to say that, regrettably, the number of cases of sex change in Russia is growing. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, from 2016 to 2022, 3,000 people changed their sex. In fact, today one can do it simply by showing a medical certificate; there’s no accounting for these documents, and they are issued in almost all private clinics in Russia. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health is unaware of how many such operations are performed. The cost of the service does not exceed 30,000 rubles.
The diagnosis termed as “transsexualism” by our esteemed doctors refers to disorders of sexual identification. It can serve as a basis for deeming a citizen unfit for military service. Moreover, by changing the gender of one partner, a homosexual couple can legally adopt a child. This, regrettably, already happens in Russia.
According to the Russian Constitution, marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and there are no indeterminate, intermediate, additional genders in there. There are no “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.” The introduction of such a practice in Russia starkly contradicts a number of basic state documents and concepts: the Russian Constitution, the National Security Strategy, the basics of state policy on preserving traditional Russian spiritual moral values, among others.
The rudimentary norms that exist are a result of some international entities’ work, such as the World Health Organisation with its International Classifications of Diseases-10 and -11, which are still recognised by the Russian Federation government. In these classifications, all perversions are deemed normal. If we wish to live in such a world, no changes or laws are necessary. We should accept Russia’s membership in the WHO, which offers trips, benefits, profitable contracts and more.
What I’m discussing is merely the tip of the iceberg. The Western transgender industry is trying to penetrate our nation, creating a window for their multi-billion dollar business. In Russia, a comprehensive network of gender-reassignment clinics already exists, including “trans-friendly” doctors and psychologists, supported by LGBT organisations, although in the last six months they have perhaps changed their names to more innocuous ones. And this is already a profitable, very profitable sphere of medical services. It is understandable why a number of doctors fiercely protect this sphere, hiding behind academic knowledge, acquired abroad during training in the USA and other countries. That’s very well and good. Only, as it seems to me, it’s time to put things in order in this sphere. And this decision is a step in that direction.
A few words about the position of the Ministry of Health. We received a very emotional response from the Ministry of Health to this bill. They foresee a deadlock should the bill be adopted. In this stalemate, individuals whose gender, officially recognised by medical professionals, does not align with the sex stated in their passports, would find themselves unable—poor things—to reconcile their passport data with their self-perceived reality. This discrepancy could result in ethical, medical, and social issues, and may even—can you believe it?—lead to a rise in suicides across the country.
My colleagues, forgive me, but if we are to agree with this viewpoint, with the position of the Ministry of Health, then this law should not be pursued. If we make an exception, classifying this condition, as it were, as a mental health concern, that’s one argument. However, if our doctors still wish to approach this issue with scalpels, then that’s another matter, and in that case, this law should not be adopted. The choice rests with you today. As it stands, the amendments our colleagues from the government are preparing would, I believe, render this law entirely impotent in its current form. Hence, the decision is ours to make. It appears to me that we are at the beginning of this journey. I believe we should, and are prepared to, thrust forward on this road, precisely because, as I stated at the beginning, our nation needs to change.
Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Health: First and foremost, I want to say that the Ministry of Health stands firmly behind the restriction of sex changes, simply based on the individual’s wish or through certain, let’s say, unauthorized procedures, which include the figure that was mentioned in the discussion today. Thus, the decision totoughen the prerequisites for surgical or hormonal intervention should should be based solely on top-tier medical consultations, and in turn, our federal institutions need to be actively engaged in this process.
Numerous experts in various fields were consulted during the discussion of this bill. Indeed, a number of facets have begun to become clearer, and we have identified certain pseudoscientific elements. I believe that this bill, as it stands now, can be supported in the first reading, and the work on it, as has already been mentioned, will continue towards the second reading. We hold the view that these developments, within the scope of state policy, the support for family values, and the focus on fostering a positive demographic situation, should proceed along this trajectory. Thank you very much, I believe I’ve now outlined our general stance.
Nina Ostanina, deputy from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (addressing Murashko): Honourable Mikhail Albertovich! Unfortunately, neither your written answer, which reached our committee on May 6, nor your comments on this bill today have brought any clarity at all. Furthermore, I fear that you may be attempting to soften this bill. Your stance on the prohibition of sex changes seems to conflict with the fact that it was you, it was with your permission or more accurately, according to the Ministry of Health’s directive from October 20, 2017, number 851, which approved the form and process, and so forth... You’re aware of this directive’s title. Essentially, this is where it all began. You ratified the WHO’s convention with your signature. On this matter, I would like to ask you, who gave you the authority to do so?
Murashko (responding to Ostanina): Honourable Nina Alexandrovna! The issue with this directive does, regrettably, involve a breach of the law in its execution. Currently, our discourse concerns the tightening of these parameters within the process of the bill’s approval. There are violations related to sex development. These are inherited and endocrine conditions. Within this context, the frequency encountered is one in four thousand newborns. As such, we need to navigate within this framework. For this patient category, a medical decision regarding endocrine genetic disorders, as stated in the legislation, is supported in the proposed bill. So, indeed, one can recall 2017 and other instances, but at present, we are considering this specific standpoint, which we have already stated.
Elena Drapeko, deputy from Fair Russia Party (addressing deputy Tolstoy): Honourable Petr Olegovich, I have a question for you. From today’s responses of our Ministry of Health, it is evident that the discussion revolves around sex changes—however, perhaps the conversation should focus on restoring sex. If there is an anomaly, it should be reverted to the norm. My question to you is this: when we attempted to draft a law banning pornography in the Russian Federation, including necrophilia, zoophilia, and other deviances, it was precisely the medical community, specifically sexopathologists in our working group, who opposed it. They claimed that our current deviances are recognised as the norm globally. Do I correctly understand that we will revisit the topic of banning pornography in the Russian Federation?
Petr Tolstoy (answering Drapeko): Elena Grigorievna, thank you for your question. I trust that in this chamber the majority, of which I am confident, understand the need to alter what has been done in the past two decades in this field, and the necessity to revert all this. Yes, revert to reevaluating some of the benefits derived from the beads we received from the West in exchange for oil and entertainment. Concerning the initial part of your question about changing sex, let’s return to the bill. As such, in its first reading, this is articulated in the bill’s text.
All the abnormalities mentioned by the honourable Mikhail Albertovich, which concern children under 18, are, accordingly, unrelated to procedures that an adult person undergoes voluntarily. Hence, they will all be addressed in some way or another with the aid of esteemed medical colleagues. We are referring to something else. That is, if we leave even a single loophole for adults, hordes of those homosexuals who wish to adopt children, those wanting to evade military service, and so forth, will exploit this loophole through high-level medical consultations, as Mikhail Albertovich mentioned, and so on. I won’t delve into all of this now, but the essence lies solely in this: either it’s a complete prohibition for adults without loopholes and the capability to correct those natural abnormalities occurring in children. Or if we leave loopholes, then the entire law loses its purpose. That’s it.
Nikolai Kolomeitsev, deputy from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (addressing Tolstoy and Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin): Honourable Petr Olegovich, Vyacheslav Viktorovich! Considering the strain and pain in your souls as you report, I understand that subconsciously, there is a fifth column that does not want this law to be adopted. Could you please tell me, given we adopt laws in entirety, to what extent is this law ready for adoption in the first reading and overall?
Tolstoy: The law has been worked out and vetted accordingly, with the Ministry of Justice, from a legal technique standpoint. We were not prepared for Nikolai Vasilievich’s phrasing of the question, but we are ready to work on the law as quickly as possible in order to adopt it in its entirety because the legal and technical narrative is relatively simple in this law. And if we do not complicate it with additional amendments, then yes, this is possible.
Volodin: Nikolai Vasilievich, this is a joint bill, and in accordance with the federal law, before considering the bill in its first reading, which we are doing now, we sent it to the regional parliaments and received feedback. Then, in accordance with the procedure, after adoption, in case of support, we must again send it to the regions. If the council supports, we will do this through an expedited distribution in 15 days and will be able to consider the bill in the near future during the spring session. Everything depends on us.
Alexey Kurinny, deputy from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Candidate of Medical Science (addressing the Minister of Health): First question. Today, the ICD-11 no longer classifies transsexualism as a disease. It is essentially a semi-physiological condition. How will the ICD-11 be implemented within the Russian Federation’s jurisdiction? And the second question. In 2022, around 900 individuals underwent gender-related documentation changes. Out of this group, do we know how many underwent surgical transitions? Do you have such data? It would help us understand the scale of this issue—whether we’re dealing with isolated cases, dozens, or hundreds of individuals. What is the approximate annual figure?
Murashko: To begin, I’d like to emphasize the necessity for clear understanding and stringent policies. Not everyone who alters their identification documents undergoes a gender transition. This is a key factor to remember. As for the ICD-11, there hasn’t been an official revision within the Russian Federation. The translation procedures are currently ongoing, and we reserve the right to determine how it’s adopted. We aren’t required to fully implement it, allowing us to potentially exclude certain parts. Therefore, the issue you’ve brought up is manageable. No country is compelled to accept any particular classification in its entirety. Note that the classification itself is merely an acknowledgement of a particular condition or status.
Therefore, just like stratiform clouds, cloud classifications do not directly influence rainfall. This is essentially paperwork that can be corrected. As for the nine hundred people, I don’t have the figures on how many of them underwent surgical procedures. That’s why we strongly advocate for stricter regulations in this area. Yes, there was pluralism in the 90s, in the early 2000s. It’s good that today we are, so to say, firmly reestablishing a clear direction. Therefore, I believe it’s unfair to paint all medical professionals with the same broad brush, especially considering their tireless work both in the past and now.
Anatoly Wasserman, deputy from the Fair Russia Party (addressing Murashko): Given that the concept of gender pertains to the understanding of sexual roles, how far does the Ministry of Health integrate into its research psychological and, when necessary, psychiatric methodologies for reconciling these perceptions with reality?
Murashko: Several scientific medical research centres in the Russian Federation incorporate this line of inquiry into their work. I should note that a presidential directive has recently been issued to establish an additional institute that will focus on studying not only these aspects but also various behavioural trends, including social behaviour. Therefore, this particular research direction will receive mandatory scientific attention, in addition to our existing efforts.
Nikolai Nikolaev, deputy from the United Russia Party: A question for Petr Olegovich and Mikhail Albertovich. Indeed, the engagement of teenagers and young people in this is criminal, a criminal network. Lawyers involved in this recruitment network are already announcing on social media that they will exploit any loopholes they can find in our upcoming bill. Meanwhile, so-called trans-friendly psychologists are increasingly urging those teenagers and young people just beginning their gender transition process to expedite it, securing certificates and changing documents before our law’s third reading. Don’t you believe that we should impose a moratorium on these medical commissions’ activities as we consider this bill?
Murashko: Thank you for your proposal, Nikolai Petrovich. I will consider it and discuss its implementation with our legal team. It seems like a worthwhile idea at first glance. I’ll examine it further and give you an update.
Biysultan Khamzaev, deputy from the United Russia Party (addressing Tolstoy): Petr Olegovich, you mentioned the figure, three thousand, which I believe has certainly shocked many due to its size within such a short span. A question that likely concerns many is what happens to those three thousand who have already changed their documents? They are both women and not, so how do we avoid someone coming to the civil registration office with this hocus-pocus? Such a simple question. What are we to do with them? Are we supposed to identify them based on their previous gender, male or female? What will be our approach? (Laughter and sporadic applause can be heard from the deputies in the hall)
Tolstoy (smiling): Dear Biysultan, the legislation is not retroactive. Those who have undergone such changes have already done so. Colleagues, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that this figure of 3,000 is growing exponentially. As trans-friendly medical practices and services gain traction and significant funding, the figure is increasing. There were 550 such cases in 2021, then 900 in 2022. If we don’t make a decision now, we could see 5,000 by next year. As for verification, I believe this should be an individual responsibility, separate from legislative oversight. Be vigilant, Biysultan Sultanbievich. I also suggest we apply the same scrutiny to foreign citizens where these operations are legal. We must remain careful and attentive, as our colleagues suggest.
Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma from the United Russia Party (concluding remarks): Earlier today, our Minister of Labour and Social Protection reported on our state Demography programme’s progress, highlighting the issue of declining birth rates. When we discussed this matter, it revolved around income-related issues, but that’s not the crux of the matter. If there is a cult of the family, if one values and cherishes moral values inherited from grandfathers and great-grandfathers, then there is no doubt that the family will be large. However, if through relentless indoctrination these values morph into self-absorption and the freedom to change one’s sex, we won’t see large families in the future. This may even question the state’s existence. But the most frightening part is the child abuse.
Just look at the current situation in the United States, where these pseudo-values are being propagated. The rate of transgenders is already three times higher among teenagers than it is among mthe adult population, the result of propaganda. The number of children undergoing hormone therapy has more than doubled in five years. They start administering hormones to kids as young as eight, eight. From 2017 to 2021, more than 2,000 sex-change operations were performed on children aged 13 to 17. We don’t want this to occur in our country. Let the U.S. pursue its diabolic policy. We’ll see how it ends.
This won’t yield any positive outcomes. It’s pure satanism. Thus, we would like the Ministry of Health to recognise this situation. Their work is loved and respected. Nevertheless, we cannot endorse the views of honourable Dmitry Anatolyevich Khubezov. Is it right to ask a child during a tonsillectomy if they wish to change their gender? This seems like a method of brainwashing children, setting the stage for a gender transition. We understand all too well where this leads. It’s a tragedy. We hope this won’t occur here. Thus, this law, uniquely, is proposed today by nearly all deputies of the State Duma. We all represent different parties and principles here. This diversity strengthens the parliament. We have all endorsed this law, and we aim to adopt it today.
However, by the second reading, we hope the Ministry of Health won’t introduce any amendments under the guise of concern for people’s well-being. If you wish to care, ban this vice. If a child’s situation necessitates surgical intervention, it should be performed. The current bill under consideration already allows for this. Any other actions indicate a desire to find a loophole, leading us down the path we all see. But we don’t need to follow it. Colleagues, shall we proceed to vote?
Tolstoy (also concluding remarks): Esteemed colleagues, I wish to address Mikhail Albertovich. We are eager to collaborate with you to resolve demographic issues and matters relating to the credibility of the medical community. We need to establish strict state oversight over hormonal drugs used for gender transitions and medicinal abortions, which are prevalent today. We must seriously consider banning abortions performed illegally for profit in private clinics. Mikhail Albertovich, we all greatly respect the medical community, each individual doctor. This respect stems from their commitment to serving society, not greed. Pursuing money is not a commendable act, neither in medicine nor in education. Serving society, however, enjoys our profound respect.
Editor: Dmitry Treschanin
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