LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

#NeverGiveUp: Proposed anti-LGBTI amendments to the Russian Family Code explained


In July 2020, seven Russian senators introduced three bills to the State Duma, seeking to amend the Russian Family Code. With the purpose of “strengthening the family institute,” if approved, this legislative package would further limit the rights of LGBTI people. Here we bring you a breakdown of the proposed amendments and their potential impact.

The 180 pages of proposed amendments to the Russian Family Code could affect anyone living in the country. Furthermore, three pages refer specifically to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). How will these amendments impact the lives of LGBTI people in Russia, if the legislative package is adopted?

1. A box to indicate “sex at birth” will be included in birth certificates and changes to this category will not be possible.

  • People who made changes on their birth certificates will have to replace them with the old information by January 2022.

  • People who access the legal gender recognition procedures will be left with an incorrect birth certificate, leading to a mismatch between the birth certificate and other identity documents, such as passports.

  • While there is no ban on legal gender recognition (LGR) per se, or on gender-affirming treatment, the proposed changes would render the existing legal gender recognition procedure incomplete. This will have far-reaching consequences for trans and intersex individuals accessing LGR.

2. To register marriages legally, birth certificates might be requested if an official demands so.

  • Any marriage will be banned de facto for many trans people. With different gender markers on a birth certificate and passport, any marriage of a trans person, regardless of their sexual orientation, might be qualified by officials as a ‘same-sex marriage’, which is not allowed in Russia. This will have lasting impacts on a wide range of rights emerging from marital status.

3. The draft laws further cement barriers to equal family rights for LGBTI people.

  • A ban on same-sex marriage will be added to the Family Code, complementing the existing constitutional ban.

  • Adoption and guardianship will be banned for same-sex couples who registered their marriage abroad, and for unmarried individuals with citizenship in countries where same-sex marriages are possible. This ban already exists in Russian legislation.

What else?

These bills will not only affect LGBTI people. If adopted, children at the risk of abuse will not be removed from the family before the enforcement of a court decision. In the best scenario, this will take at least one month.

What can you do?

The State Duma can pass these bills any time. Here it is what you can do to prevent this from happening:

  • Write to your contacts at the UN, Council of Europe and OSCE, to flag and condemn the draft law, which would infringe on several internationally enshrined human rights, and remind Russia of its obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights for all people without discrimination.

  • Issue a statement/joint statement condemning the adoption of discriminatory laws limiting fundamental rights of LGBTI people in Russia: putting legal gender recognition of trans people in limbo, banning de facto marriage for trans people, cementing a ban on same-sex marriages and adoption by same-sex couples, and disallowing any recognition of same-sex marriages registered abroad .

  • Where possible, acknowledge the broader negative impact of the proposed laws, such as: weakening protection of child from domestic abuse, excessive regulation of family matters, limiting right of the child to adoption, redefining parenthood for adoptive parents.

  • Join us in showing your solidarity with Russian LGBTI activists in support of their tireless work! Post your selfie to your social media holding a sign saying ‘Never Give Up’ using the hashtag #NeverGiveUp!

Suggested messages:

1. The proposed ‘Traditional Values’ law in #Russia will eliminate #gender recognition for #trans and #intersex people. I stand in solidarity with Russia’s strong #LGBTI activists, who will #NeverGiveUp their fight for freedom and equality

2. The proposed ‘Traditional Values’ bill in Russia will further discrimination against LGBTI people in Russia, including partnership and guardianship rights. I stand in solidarity with Russia’s strong #LGBTI activists, who will #NeverGiveUp their fight for freedom and equality

3. Russia’s proposed ‘Traditional Values’ law reverses current gender recognition & violates the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a party. I stand in solidarity with Russia’s strong #LGBTI activists, who will #NeverGiveUp their fight for freedom and equality