Russia violates gay rights: ECHR
Russia’s gay propaganda law increases “stigma and prejudice” and violates the right to freedom of expression, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has announced.
The law, which bans the promotion of homosexual behaviour to young people, was introduced in 2013.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, but gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are often subject to discrimination, persecution and violence.
And gay rights groups claim the law is often used as a means to target and intimidate the LGBT community in Russia.
The law is portrayed as a key aspect of President Vladimir Putin’s nationalist message that positions Russia as a defender of Christian and traditional values, and the west as decadent and godless.
The court ruled that through the law the Russian authorities were encouraging homophobia.
The judges said Russia had “overstepped the margin of appreciation” of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights that guaranteed freedom of expression.
Moscow responded by claiming “that regulating public debate on LGBT issues may be justified on the grounds of the protection of morals”.
The ECHR came down in favour of three gay campaigners who said the law violated the rights to freedom of expression and prohibition of discrimination under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The seven-judge panel ordered Russia to pay the men €43,000 in damages.
The court rejected Moscow’s argument that controlling the public debate on gay issues helped to protect morality, and said Russia had failed to demonstrate how freedom of expression would undermine “traditional families”, as the Russian authorities claimed.
Russia signed the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998. The court, which has interpreted the treaty since 1953, has often criticised the increasingly authoritarian country. The ruling is binding but lacks a strong enforcement mechanism. Russia said it would file an appeal.
“The laws on the ban of propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors did not contradict international practice and were aimed at defending children’s morality and health,” the Russian Justice Ministry announced. “The laws did not impose any measures that would ban homosexuality or condemn it officially. They were not discriminatory.”
The ECHR panel said there was a “clear European consensus about the recognition of individuals’ right to openly identify themselves as gay, lesbian or any other sexual minority, and to promote their own rights and freedoms”.
|Activist Nikolai Alekseev is arrested at Moscow Pride in 2006. Picture credit: Wikimedia|