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Russian Health Ministry Ends Ban on Blood Donations by Gays

 

Russian gay activists celebrate their first major victory two years after the start of the campaign
 

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MOSCOW, May 23, 2008 (GayRussia.ru)  –  The Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development has repealed the ban on blood donations by homosexual people, it emerged last night.

This move by the Russian authorities  is a victory for the activists from Russian LGBT Human Rights, Project GayRussia.ru, who have fought the restrictions for more than two years.

Tatyana Golikova, the Minister of Health and Social Development signed the decree on April 16, it emerged yesterday.

The decree amends the rules on blood donations which were  implemented on September 14, 2001.

According to the amendments, provisions for absolute ban on blood donations by people from the so called groups of high risk (homosexuals, drug addicts and prostitutes) are being repealed.

Activists at GayRussia have been campaigning against the ban since April 2006 when they sent a letter to the Ministry of Health and Social Development as well as to the Russian General Prosecutor asking for the repeal of the ban because it contradicted the Russian Constitution and federal legislation.

They repeated their demand a year later.  The Ministry responded twice to the activists, saying that the amendments will be implemented, and that the issue is being discussed within the Ministry.

A third letter was sent to the Ministry last month.  Nikolai Alekseev and Nikolai Baev reminded officials that “since May 1993 homosexual relations between consenting adults in private are not considered a crime in Russia.  Since 1999 Russian psychiatry does not consider homosexuality as a mental illness as it joint international classification of mental illnesses”.

Campaign coordinators also suggested that “according to Article 23 of the Russian Constitution, “every person has the right to private life, personal and family secrets”. According to Article 19 of the Constitution, discrimination is prohibited on all grounds.

On September 14 last year gay activists wanted to picket Ministry of Health and Social Development in Moscow to demand an immediate repeal of the discriminatory ban on blood donations by homosexuals.

But the Prefecture of the Central Administrative Area of Moscow banned the picket on security grounds.  And unsanctioned public event led to arrests of the activists near the Ministry.  They were later fined by the court for conducting an unauthorised picket.

The same day – September 14 – several Russian gay activists, including the organizer of Moscow Pride Nikolai Alekseev, tried to donate blood as openly gay men in the Central Blood Transfusion Centre in Moscow but they failed to do it.

During a conversation with Nikolai Alekseev – in front of journalists – deputy head of the centre Sergei Oprischenko admitted that the ban could not be realised in practice and should be repealed.

All this time it was used to stigmatise gay people, who were equated to drug addicts and prostitutes.

Speaking from São Paulo in Brazil, Nikolai Alekseev said today: “I am very happy that the Ministry took this decision to repeal a discriminatory ban on blood donations by homosexual people.

“We conducted our campaign against the ban for two years and it brought the results.  Not so many people believed in our success but we proved that actions can lead to serious results.”

He suggested that “this decision reflects the most liberal tendencies which can be witnessed in most democratic countries of the world”.

“Russia will become an example in this respect for other countries, including western democracies, where such restrictions are still in force.

“Russian legislation finally got rid of the last direct discriminatory provision against homosexual people.  Now we are going to ask for positive actions of the authorities in order to directly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in Russia law as well as criminal prosecution for hate speeches and aggressive homophobia.”

Mr. Alekseev is in São Paulo to receive the city’s Gay Pride’s “Citizen Award for Respecting Diversity”.  Gay Prides in São Paulo, the world’s largest, and Moscow are ‘twinned’.

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Posted: 23 May 2008 at 01:00 (UK time)

 

 


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