The European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled [judgment] Tuesday that a Russian law prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality is discriminatory and violates the European Convention on Human Rights [materials, PDF]. The suit was brought [JURIST report] by three activists—Nikolai Bayev, 42; Aleksei Kiselev, 33; and Nikolai Alekseyev, 39 — who were arrested and fined for carrying banners stating “homosexuality is natural, not a perversion” during staged demonstrations between 2009 and 2012. The so-called “gay propaganda law,” introduced in 2012 [JURIST report], is a series of statutes that make any act that could be considered “promoting non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors a criminal offense punishable by a fine. Russia’s Duma justified the measures as necessary to protect children from homosexual influence. The European Court’s ruling, which focused [press release, PDF] on the freedom of expression and prohibition of discrimination, contended Russia’s assertion that the laws were implemented to prevent children from being “converted” by stating:
the Court found that the Government had been unable to provide any explanation of the mechanism by which a minor could be enticed into “[a] homosexual lifestyle”, let alone science-based evidence that one’s sexual orientation or identity was susceptible to change under external influence. Moreover, in staging their demonstrations, the applicants had not sought to interact with minors, nor intrude into their private space. Nothing on their banners had been inaccurate, sexually explicit or aggressive; nor could their messages have been interpreted as an invitation for tuition on gender issues. Indeed, to the extent that the minors who witnessed the applicants’ campaign had been exposed to ideas of diversity, equality and tolerance, the adoption of those views could only be conducive to social cohesion.
The court ruled in favor of the activists 6-1. Judge Dmitry Dedov, the only Russian judge, dissented stating, “the right to freedom of expression could be limited if it conflicts” with the rights of others such as “privacy (including the dignity and integrity) of the children and the convictions of their parents as to how their children should organize their family life.”
Russia’s treatment of the LGBTQ community has faced intense scrutiny in the past few months with many human rights groups focusing on the conditions in Chechnya. In May a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [JURIST report] stated that Chechen police have rounded up, beaten and humiliated dozens of men who are suspected of being gay or bisexual in an attempt to purge them from society. News of the conditions faced by those perceived to be apart of the LGBT community in Chechnya was first reported by Novaya Gazeta [report, translated]. In April Chechen authorities denied that gay people live in Chechnya, which was concerning to UN experts. In July the UN Human Rights Council [official website] voted in favor of [JURIST report] appointing an independent expert to report on and investigate worldwide violence and discrimination against the LGBT community. Since then, UN human rights expert have provided reports of other countries dictating their discriminatory policies against the LGBT community, such as the report [JURIST report] on conduct in Thailand in November. That same month, a group of UN human rights experts expressed concern [JURIST report] over countries attempting to retroactively block a mandate of an independent expert to investigate sexual orientation and gender identity-based rights abuses.