Russia has banned transsexual and transgender people from driving as they are deemed to have mental disorders which make them more likely to crash.
Also on the list of those prohibited from obtaining licences are exhibitionists, fetishists and voyeurs, with the government claiming it is tightening up controls to cut the number of accidents on the roads.
The shocking announcement follows international outrage at Russia’s position on homosexuality and its harassment of gay-rights activists prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Russian psychiatrists and human rights lawyers have condemned the move, which also puts ‘pathological’ gamblers and compulsive thieves on the banned list.
Speaking to the BBC Russian Service, Valery Evtushenko at the Russian Psychiatric Association, voiced concern about the restrictions.
He claimed that some people would avoid seeking psychiatric help for fear of losing their licence.
And Mikhail Strakhov, a Russian psychiatric expert, said the definition of ‘personality disorders’ was far too vague, with many disorders listed not affecting a person’s ability to safely drive a car.
The Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights labelled the new law ‘discriminatory’.
It said it would demand further clarity from the Russian Constitutional Court while also seeking support from international human rights groups.
But the Professional Drivers Union supported the move, with the group’s chief Alexander Kotov, saying: ‘We have too many deaths on the road, and I believe toughening medical requirements for applicants is fully justified.’
Russia’s attitude to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens recently garnered fierce international criticism in the run up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The world speculated as to how the country’s controversial ‘gay propaganda’ law would affect foreign athletes participating in the games and fans in attendance.
Human Rights First condemned the driving ban and put a statement on their website which read: ‘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.
‘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.
‘We urge the United States to immediately condemn this provision and to press the Russian government to repeal this decision.’
The resolution, which was developed by the Russian Ministry of Health, is the first of its kind to include these ‘mental disorders.’
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