On January 9, top Russian lawmakers expressed outrage over a letter from the Parliamentary Assembly of European Council (PACE) inviting Russia’s PACE delegation to a session set for the end of this month.
Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, said the PACE invitation outlined the criteria for selecting the Russian delegation.
“These criteria are related both to the fractional principle, well-known to you, and to the perhaps less known principle of gender equality,” Tolstoy said. “I think six sexes are indicated.”
The PACE Charter, he added, declares that all Council of Europe members have equal rights.
"It is from this equality that we, the deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, and our colleagues from the Federation Council [the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament] proceed," Tolstoy said. "We believe that the current situation is unacceptable."
According to Mediametrics.ru, the “PACE six genders requirement” was #3 top headline in the Russian media on Wednesday, January 9, and the most discussed topic on social media.
In a live interview with the Rossiya-24 TV channel, Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Relations Committee, called the PACE letter “a provocation, specifically to coerce the Russian delegation to slam the door and pull out of PACE.”
Both Tolstoy and Slutsky’s claims are false.
PACE gave Polygraph.info a copy of the letter sent to the Russian parliament, which stated that Russia’s PACE delegation include “at a very minimum one member of the under-represented sex appointed as a representative.”
“This is a standard letter, (exactly the same as every year) which all speakers of our national parliaments received at the end of November 2018,” wrote Micaela Catalano, head of the Communication Division Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, in an email to Polygraph.info.
In June 2018, PACE adopted Resolution 2222 “Promoting Diversity and Equality in Politics.”
The resolution states: “Diversity is an inherent part of European societies and contributes to their richness. However, all too often, elected institutions fail to mirror this diversity, reinforcing the stereotype that politics is the reserve of a certain category of people, to the exclusion of others. Women, visible minorities, people with an immigration background, national minorities, young people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and persons with disabilities remain under-represented in politics at local, regional, national and European level. This representation gap perpetuates the idea that politics is reserved for a select group, composed mostly of white, heterosexual men over 50.”
At their most diverse, Russian PACE delegations in past years have included only two women and never members of sexual minorities, those whose sexual orientation, identity or characteristics differ from the majority, who in Russia are constantly subjected to harassment and homophobia.
While charges of sexual assault and harassment have brought down the careers of politicians and celebrities in West, and some have even been criminally prosecuted, Slutsky has not suffered such consequences despite multiple sexual harassment accusations made against him. Indeed, Slutsky, along with various higher-ups and colleagues, have simply waved off such accusations.
In 2014, PACE suspended the Russian delegation’s voting rights over the annexation of Crimea and military interference in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s PACE delegation continues to demand the immediate restoration of full representation while fully supporting the Kremlin’s foreign policy acts.
On Thursday, January 10, after PACE made public a copy of the letter sent to the Russian parliament, Tolstoy admitted he had made a “grave mistake” about the number of genders.
“I repent,” he wrote on Facebook. “There are, of course, not six, but only two - male and female. All the other individuals are ‘underrepresented sexes’, genders; that is precisely what is being referred to in the PACE letter … Where we get them remains to be determined.”