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Russia: Mandatory HIV Testing Before Marriage Proposed

(Sept. 15, 2015) On September 9, 2015, legislation aimed at establishing additional requirements for marriage registration was introduced in the State Duma (legislature) of the Russian Federation. (Bill No. 878942-6 on Amending Article 26 of the Federal Law on Civil Status Acts, Russian Federation State Duma website (last visited Sept. 14, 2015) (in Russian) [click on the hyperlinked bill number to view text].) If passed, the new law would establish that applications for the state registration of a marriage, a requirement to make a marriage valid under Russian family law, will be accepted only after the marrying couple submits to the civil status registration authorities proof that they have passed an HIV test. The text does not specify the consequences if the HIV test is positive for the disease, nor does it state whether marriage registration will be denied in such a case. The draft law was sponsored by State Duma members from Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim-populated Russian territory, where the same rule was introduced by a local law in 2011, even though family relations in Russia are regulated by federal legislation. (A Parliamentarian from Chechnya Suggests Need to Pass HIV Test Before Wedding, NEWSRU.COM (Sept. 10, 2015) (in Russian).)

The introductory note to the draft legislation states that its goal is to control the growing spread of HIV/AIDS in Russia and to decrease the number of children born with the human immunodeficiency virus. The draft was supported by the Duma’s Committee on Healthcare and by the head of the Russian Consumer Protection Service. The proposal does not allocate federal funds for the testing if it becomes mandatory and does not include this test in the list of medical services covered by the mandatory national health insurance. (Bill No. 878942-6, supra.) According to Russian health authorities, by the end of 2015, the number of HIV/AIDS-infected people in the country may exceed one million. (A Parliamentarian from Chechnya Suggests Need to Pass HIV Test Before Wedding , supra.)

Similar Legislation in Former Soviet Republics

This draft Russian law is in line with the trend to pass similar legislation in Islamic nations that are former Soviet republics. In Tajikistan, legislation was proposed in May 2015 that, in addition to an HIV/AIDS test, requires marrying couples to pass a DNA test and to verify the absence of inherited blood diseases in order to help discourage the widespread practice of marriages between relatives. This measure is also aimed at increasing health awareness among the general public. (Tajikistan: Will Make Pre-Wedding Tests on Diseases and Virginity Mandatory, CENTRASIA.RU (May 11, 2015) (in Russian).)

In May 2015, the Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan approved the list of diseases for which tests must be completed before the conclusion of a marriage. Relevant amendments to the Family Code of Azerbaijan entered into force on June 1, 2015. (A.Alieva, What Tests Need to Be Passed Before a Wedding, AZE.AZ (May 13, 2015)  (in Russian).) Similar legislation is also in place in Uzbekistan. (A.N. Levushkin, Legal Aspects of Medical Examinations of Those Intending to Marry in the CIS Countries, MEDITSINSKOE PRAVO [LAW OF MEDICINE], No. 3 (2001) (in Russian).)

In 2012, the Parliament of Moldova recognized that the requirement that couples undergo a pre-marital medical examination interferes with the private life of the marrying couple and amended the Family Code with a provision that makes such an examination voluntary. (Law No. 107 of May 11, 2012, on Amending Selected Legislative Acts, MONITORUL OFFICIAL [OFFICIAL GAZETTE] , No. 120-125, Item 396 (2012) (in Russian).)