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Russia bans transvestites and transsexuals from driving

Russia has passed a controversial law banning transvestites and transsexuals from driving, prompting sharp criticism from rights activists, including a prominent Kremlin advisor.

The legislation that entered into force this week bans anyone diagnosed with a range of personality and gender identity disorders, including transvestites and transsexuals, from taking the wheel.

The list also includes people with sexual fetishes, voyeurs and paedophiles, as well as pathological gamblers and kleptomaniacs.

The law follows other legislation passed in Russia discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.

In 2012, President Vladimir Putin signed a law that bans providing information on gays to minors, despite opposition from international rights activists as well as global stars such as Madonna.

The legislation claims to be aimed at lowering Russia’s high road accident death rate by taking drivers with certain medical conditions off the roads.

But a member of the rights council that advises the Kremlin publicly questioned the justification for the legislation, saying it appeared to be a breach of human rights.

Yelena Masyuk, a journalist and member of the Kremlin rights council, spoke out against the driving ban in a statement Thursday on the council’s website.

She highlighted the “possible unfairness of removing the right to drive for those suffering from disorders of gender identity and sexual preference.”

“I don’t understand why, for example, people with fetishes, kleptomaniacs and transsexuals can’t drive a car,” Masyuk said in her blog on the rights council’s website.

“It seems to me that this is a breach of the rights of Russian citizens.”

Russia needs to “study global practice” and “judge whether a ban on people with fetishes, exhibitionists, voyeurs, kleptomaniacs and others from taking the wheel is well-grounded,” Masyuk said.

The Association of Advocates of Russia for Rights said the law bans from driving “all transgender people, bi-gender, asexual, transvestites, cross-dressers and people who need gender correction (surgery).”

The ban “obviously contradicts international norms and standards,” it said in a statement.

The legal advocacy group pointed out that the ban would cover many comedians and pop stars popular in Russia, including drag performer Verka Serdyuchka, who performed at the Eurovision Song Contest for Ukraine.

“If a (male) driver is dressed as a woman and he gets recorded on a police camera, he’ll lose his licence,” wrote a commentator, Kolya Bakhtinov, on Gay.ru news website. “More and more restrictions, hello North Korea!”