Last Updated: Friday, 28 February 2020, 13:14 GMT

Russia: Update to RUS13194 of 16 February 1993 on the treatment of homosexuals

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 29 February 2000
Citation / Document Symbol RUS33940.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Russia: Update to RUS13194 of 16 February 1993 on the treatment of homosexuals, 29 February 2000, RUS33940.E, available at: [accessed 29 February 2020]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Legal Status

In  the 1999 World Legal Survey, a comprehensive overview of legal issues related to homosexuals, the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), quoting a book entitled Sociolegal Control of Homosexuality, states that:

Until 1993 consensual anal intercourse between adult males was punishable under Article 121.1 of the Russian Federation criminal code by imprisonment of up to five years. Lesbian relationswere not criminalised.

 Under strong pressure from Western public opinion and in order to obtain a place in the Council Europe, Russian President Boris Yeltsin also followed this line [of revoking anti-homosexual legislation] and Article 121.1 was repealed as part of a wide-ranging reform law that he signed on April 29 1993.

A new criminal code came into effect on 1st January 1997. The law makes an important  symbolic tribute to the principle of gender equality in that, with the exception [of] rape, which  requires a female victim, all other criminal sexual actions, such as violence, compulsion, orcoercion, can be directed against persons of either gender, the victims in all cases beingreferred to in the law as she or he.

The ILGA legal survey, quoting the Russian Queer Website, also states


The new Code is not discriminatory any more and the only specific mention of homosexuality  is made in Article 132 criminalising gay/lesbian violation (rape), providing nevertheless the  same punishment as for the heterosexual rape - the same thing for all "sexual crimes", either  "gay" or "straight".

The legal age of consent for voluntary sexual relations .... was set at 14 without any of thedifferences for gender or for heterosexual or homosexual behaviour, which still exist in some  countries. Article 134 provides that sexual intercourse, muzhelozhstvo [anal intercourse between men], or lesbianism wittingly committed by a person over 18 on a person under 16 is  punished by limitation of freedom up to 3 years or deprivation of freedom up to 4 years.

Treatment of homosexuals

On the treatment of homosexuals, the Country Reports 1999 state that:

There were credible reports that homosexuals were attacked or killed because of their sexual orientation. According to the editor of a magazine for gays, most gays are reluctant to report crimes against them to thepolice because they expect at best indifference or at worst harassment. Although the press rarely reports crimes against gays, in one rareexception, an August Kommersant Daily article referred without  providing details to the murder of seven gay men in Chelyabinsk in 1998.

An 11 October 1999 Los Angeles Times report quotes the director of Krilija, a gay and lesbian association in St. Petersburg,  as saying that:

The legal status of Russian gays and lesbians is one of the best in the world today…I think the non-gay public is increasingly tolerant with each new-coming year. As for being openly gay in Russia, it seems to be about the same as in Western countries if you are living in a large megalopolis. 

A 8 June 1999 AP reports states that:

Gay clubs now thrive in many Russian cities, but most gays and lesbians still keep their orientation quiet around colleagues. Homophobia remains rampant and same-sex couples have no domestic partner rights. 

Freedom of Expression and Association

On freedom of association, the ILGA Legal Survey states that:

The difficulties which lesbian and gay organisations face in Russia are illustrated by theappeal for help from ILGA member Astarta in Tomsk: "Gay Rights Violation in Siberia". In  this case, although officially registered, the organisation has faced sustained harassment over  many years.

The ILGA Legal Survey, which quotes a 1996 International Gay and

Lesbian Human Rights Commission  (IGLHRC) report entitled Unspoken Rules - Sexual Orientation and Women's Human Rights, states that:

Fear of repression continues to make lesbian organising—even of the purely social  variety — extremely difficult. In Omsk, for example, an attempt to create a lesbian group at the  local AIDS centre failed not because there were not enough women who wanted to take partbut because they feared they would be seen at the centre, even if only by gay men, who usedthe same time slot. Isolation continues to be the central problem for Russian lesbians, and the gains of the last few years have made barely a dent in it.

Partnership Recognition

On legal recognition of homosexual partners, the ILGA Legal Survey quotes a 24 July 1996 Rex Wockner's Wockner International News (RW) report which states that:

During the Third All-Russian Gay andLesbian Conference in Moscow June 7-9, activists sent an open letter to the lower house ofparliament, the Duma, demanding legalization of same-sex unions, and now they've received a  response. The Duma's Family Committee requested copies of domestic partnership laws from  other nations.

The Research Directorate is unable to find information as to whether or

not same-sex marriages have been legalized.

On immigration rights for foreign partners, the ILGA Legal Survey, quoting ARGO, a Moscow-based Gay magazine, states that:

There are no immigration rights for a foreign partner in a same-sex partnership. Currentpolitical situation in Russia does not allow to hope for positive changes in this century.  (Vladislav Ortanov - ARGO gay magazine – Moscow – 06 November 1998)

On custody of one's own children, the ILGA Legal Survey quotes a 1997 publication entitled Lesbian Motherhood in Europe which states that:

Though there have not been any widely publicized cases of mothers losing custody becauseof their lesbianism, many lesbian mothers believe that this is exactly what would happen if their  sexual identity became known.

On adoption and fostering, the ILGA Legal Survey, citing the same

source, states that:

Two people who are not married cannot adopt a child together, though single people can  adopt.

On parenting rights for the non-biological partner, the ILGA Legal

Survey, using the same source, states that:

There is nothing in the law that should prevent a lesbian from adopting her partner's child ifthe mother consents. Still, it seems unlikely this would happen, since adoption is granted by a  court on the recommendation of the local guardianship agency.

On access to reproductive technologies, the report, citing the same source

states that:

There is no law regulating insemination. During the discussion of the new Family Code in  1995, the Duma (lower house of parliament) considered introducing a ban on AI for lesbians.  This proposal was rejected.

No further information on the situation of homosexuals in Russie, including their current treatment, could be found among the sources available at the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Associated Press (AP).8 June 1999. PM Cycle. Angela Charlton. "Russia-turned-

raunchy Rouses Backlash Against Sexual freedoms. (NEXIS)

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). 1999. World Legal Survey: Slovakia. [Accessed: 23 Feb. 2000]

Los Angeles Times. 8 June 1999. Angela Charlton. "Gay Chorus Strikes Chord in

Russia". (NEXIS)

United States Department of State. 2000. Country reports on Human Rights Practices 1999. [Accessed: 28 Feb. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

Internet sources, including:

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

Russian Gay Websites

World News Connection (WNC)

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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