'BABY, YOU CAN'T DRIVE MY CAR': Verka Serduchka, a cross-dressing Ukrainian singer, has been banned from driving - if a new Russian law stays in place. Image: YouTube
MOSCOW, Russia - Transvestites and trans-sexuals have been banned from driving in Russia, prompting sharp criticism from rights activists, one of them a prominent Kremlin adviser.
The legislation came into force this week, banning anybody diagnosed with a range of personality and gender identity disorder from taking the wheel. Also included at sexual fetishes, voyeurs, paedophiles, pathological gamblers, kleptomaniacs and cross-dressers.
The legislation claims to be intended to reduce Russia's high road death rate by taking drivers with certain medical conditions off the roads and follows earlier legislation discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.
'BREACH OF RIGHTS'
In 2012 the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed a law that bans providing information on gays to minors, despite opposition from international rights activists. Oh, and Madonna.
Yelena Masyuk, a journalist and member of the Kremlin rights council, spoke out against the driving ban in a statement issued on January 8 on the council's website. She questioned the justification for the legislation, saying it appeared to be a breach of human rights.
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 trans-sexuals 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, she added, needed 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".
'CONTRADICTS NORMS AND STANDARDS'
The Association of Advocates of Russia for Rights said the law banned 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, among them drag performer Verka Serdyuchka who represented Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest.
"If a (male) driver is dressed as a woman and is recorded on a police camera he'll lose his licence," wrote a commentator, Kolya Bakhtinov, on the Gay.ru news website. "More and more restrictions, hello North Korea!"
Are you of a 'different' persuasion? How would you feel if the ANC introduced a similar law in South Africa - would you be tearing your hair - or your clothes- off? email us at Wheels24 or add your comment below.
Watch Verka in action at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007...