Russia to treat same-sex attraction as “mental disorder” under new directive

A newly implemented rule in Russia classifies same-sex attraction as a "mental disorder" that sexologists are expected to treat.

Ambulance in front of hospital in Russia representing new medical directive relating to LGBTQ+ people
Image: Shutterstock photo by evgenii mitroshin

As of July 1, 2023, President Vladimir Putin has ordered clinics in Russia to treat LGBTQ+ people for a “mental disorder”, effectively reversing the country’s decision to remove same-sex attraction from the list of mental disorders in 1999.

All major medical organisations, including the World Health Organization, agree that homosexuality is not an illness or disorder that needs to be treated, but clinics in Russia will now include sexologists tasked with helping LGBTQ+ patients “overcome” same-sex attraction which Putin has described as a “non-standard preference”.

Russia’s official newspaper, the Duma, reported: “The help of such specialists is necessary if a person wants to recover from frigidity, impotence, or such violations of sexual behaviour as fetishism, masochism, and sadism”. On June 14, Putin reportedly ordered the Ministry of Health to design an institute at the Serbsky Center for Psychiatry and Narcology to study the social behaviour of LGBTQ+ people.

This directive represents another step toward eradicating LGBTQ+ identities in Russia. Last month, the country introduced a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare, also forbidding trans people from updating their official documents to align with their gender.

In December 2022, Putin strengthened an existing LGBTQ+ propaganda law which criminalises the promotion of queer relationships and identities, and censors inclusive media including advertising, media, books, films or theatre productions deemed to promote LGBTQ+ themes.


Anyone individual in violation can be fined 400’000 roubles (almost €6,400). After implementing the new law, Russia’s first queer museum, which was home to three dozen items showcasing queer culture, including sculptures, tableware and literature, was closed.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Putin has referenced the need to maintain “traditional values” and protect Russia from Westernised LGBTQ+ ideologies. Russian authorities have used the newly implemented policies to stop Pride marches and detain LGBTQ+ activists.

The Ukrainian queer community has been particularly vulnerable to threats of persecution and violence, but organisations like KyivPride continue to provide safety and shelter for LGBTQ+ people in the country. Nations across the world continue to protest the war and stand with LGBTQ+ people who have been impacted by Putin’s homophobic and transphobic regime.


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