In a landmark judgment, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that Russia breached the rights of LGBTI activists, who had complained about the effects of the country’s infamous ‘anti-propaganda’ legislation. The federal law was adopted in 2013 and bans the “promotion” or “propaganda” of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism.
The Court found that the law breaches the right to freedom of expression (Article 10) and the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14).
The Court found that although the laws in question aimed primarily at protecting minors, the limits of those laws had not been clearly defined and their application had been arbitrary. Furthermore, it held that “by adopting such laws the authorities reinforce stigma and prejudice and encourage homophobia, which is incompatible with the notions of equality, pluralism and tolerance inherent in a democratic society.”
Message from European Parliament
Co-Chair of the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup, Daniele Viotti MEP, reacted: “It is wonderful news that the Court confirmed what everyone warned Russian lawmakers about four years ago: this law is discriminatory towards LGBTI people, and limits freedom of expression…Russian authorities should now withdraw the law, and end the systematic crackdown on LGBTI organisations and civil society in general.”
ILGA-Europe participation in case
ILGA-Europe had intervened as a third party in the case. Along with partners from Coming Out and the Russian LGBT Network, ILGA-Europe had argued that the law was problematic for several reasons – it was accompanied by LGBT-phobic rhetoric, it incites discrimination against a whole social group, and at the same time, is profoundly detrimental to the rights of children.
“The message from Strasbourg is loud and clear. LGBTI people deserve equality, are not a threat, and cannot be forced to hide away. These discriminatory laws perpetuate prejudice, and in fact have been harmful for the public interest (despite the laws’ claim to be beneficial for public health and the rights of minors)” ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis commented.
“This notorious law has grabbed headlines in the past. Today, we hope that this significant court judgment gets even more international attention. This is a vital decision, not only for LGBTI and human rights activists working in Russia. It sends a key message to activists in other countries who are pushing back against similarly restrictive legislative proposals.”
The Bayev judgment is binding on Russia and can be used by individual applicants in domestic cases who have been charged with similar administrative offences.