Vladimir Putin has instructed the Russian Ministry of Health to create an institute at the Serbsky Center for Psychiatry to study the “social behavior” of LGBT people. The order became public knowledge following the remarks of Russia’s Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko, who was answering a question from MP Anatoly Wasserman during a first reading of a bill banning gender transitions in the State Duma. Independent investigative outlet Important Stories (IStories) drew attention to the story.
Speaking of LGBTQ+ people, Wasserman asked Murashko whether the Health Ministry is conducting a study of “psychiatric methods for bringing these ideas [on gender roles and people's sexuality] into line with reality.”
“There is now a presidential directive to create an additional institute at our federal Center for Psychiatry to study not only these, but also a number of [other] behavioral areas, including social behavior. Therefore, this direction will also be further taken into mandatory scientific study, in addition to what we are doing today,” said Murashko.
On June 14, Russia’s State Duma passed a bill banning surgical operations “aimed at changing a person’s sex” and changing one’s gender marker in legal documents in its first reading. During the session, multiple parties in the Duma vocally criticized the document, such as the Ministry of Health, headed by Murashko. The minister said that a complete ban on “sex changes” [the term the Duma uses to describe gender transitions – The Insider] could lead to a rise in the number of suicides across the country.
Murashko supported the prohibition of “sex changes” solely based on a patient's request and advocated stricter requirements for surgery and hormone therapy, but did not advocate a complete ban on gender transitions. In response, Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin asked Murashko not to propose any amendments to the law:
“We would like the Ministry of Health not to issue any amendments by the second reading, reasoning that it takes care of people. Care should be taken, if you will, by banning all this fornication,” Volodin said.
The legislation may be modified if amendments are proposed in the document’s second and third readings.
Experts who work with LGBTQ+ people recently explained to The Insider that the Duma insists on the use of the incorrect and transphobic term “sex change,” and also wants to pass the toughest version of the bill, which would ban transgender people in Russia from every aspect of a gender transition: from changing documents to surgical manipulations. The legislation will eventually lead to an underground surgery market and an increase in cases of depression, said the experts.
Russia previously passed a law banning “LGBT propaganda.” The law does not contain any precise definitions, and in fact it applies to a person of any orientation – for example, the law can be used to prosecute people who openly say that they do not want to have children.
The Serbsky Center (formally known as “The Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry”) is a psychiatric hospital in Moscow and Russia's main center of forensic psychiatry. In the Soviet Union, the Center, then known as the Serbsky Institute, was used as a weapon against dissenters from the late 1960s to the 1980s. Dissidents were often declared mentally ill, and sent for involuntary treatment to hospitals controlled by the Internal Affairs Ministry (MVD).
In 2014, Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky cut off a piece of his ear while sitting naked outside the Serbsky Center to take a stand against law enforcement's use of forced psychiatry to crack down on dissidents. According to Pavlensky, cutting off his earlobe was meant to represent the damage resulting from police “returning to the use of psychiatry for political goals.”