A new blow to LGBTI rights – Russia bans transsexual and transgender people from driving

Last week, the Russian Government took radical steps to clamp down on bad driving practices and introduced a new totally discriminatory amendment to driving legislation which effectively banned transsexual and transgender people from holding licenses.

Russia has one of the worst records in Europe for road accidents (30,000 deaths and 250,000 serious injuries per year, according to official figures) and the Russian government decided to introduce new categories of people who would be barred from driving. The list includes people with so-called “sexual disorders” – transsexual and transgender people as well as fetishists, voyeurs, exhibitionists and transvestites.

Following a law introduced in 2013 to ban “homosexual propaganda” to minors, this latest move by the Russian government is yet another example of the Russian regime’s rollback of basic human rights for LGBTI citizens.

This regressive move has the potential to prevent LGBTI people in Russia from seeking medical advice or mental health services for fear of a diagnosis which would prevent them from driving.

In the European Parliament I am a member of the both the EP Delegation to Russia and the Intergroup on LGBTI rights – a group which fights for and advocates the rights of our LGBTI citizens. In particular, through the work of the Gender Recast Directive, the Intergroup makes it a priority to secure transgender rights, including legal recognition and access to healthcare.

Britain has been declared the best place for LGBTI rights in Europe for three years running by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – a fact of which I am tremendously proud. We now have an equal age of consent, we have ended the ban on LGBTI persons in military service, we have secured the right for LGBTI people to adopt, homophobia has been added to the definition of hate crime, Section 28 prohibiting homosexual relationships to be discussed in schools has been repealed, the Gender Recognition Act allows transsexual people to legally change their gender and as of last year, same sex marriages are now taking place up and down the country.

As such, Britain has a responsibility help to pioneer LGBTI rights across the European and international spheres. It is unacceptable that LGBTI persons across the world – and especially on our European borders – do not have access to basic human rights.

The Labour Party’s MEPs are at the forefront of this, while other UK MEPs are severely lagging behind. Unfortunately, the voting records of UKIP and the Conservatives in Europe tell you all you need to know:
• In a 2012 vote on tackling discrimination against LGBTI couples and their families, when moving to another EU country, UKIP and BNP MEPs both voted against;
• In a 2012 vote to condemn homophobia in Russia, UKIP MEPs either abstained or failed to turn up;
• In a 2012 report on human rights in the world, including sexual orientation and gender identity, UKIP joined with BNP leader Nick Griffin and voted against the report while the Conservatives abstained; and
• In 2014, UKIP voted against EU-wide recognition of same-sex marriages, while the Conservatives abstained.

This new law in Russia is a harsh reminder of the reality that there is still so much work to be done. I ensure you that I will never stop fighting for LGBTI rights in the UK, in Europe and across the globe, and I hope you will help me in this fight for justice and equality.