Human rights judges have today warned that legislation in Russia banning the promotion of homosexuality breaches freedom of expression and is discriminatory.
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Bayev and Others v. Russia (application nos. 67667/09, 44092/12 and 56717/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, by six votes to one, that there had been:
a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights,
a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 10 of the convention.
The case was brought by applicants Nikolay Bayev, Aleksey Kiselev and Nikolay Alekseyev. All are Russian nationals and are gay activists.
The court found in particular 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.
Moreover, the very purpose of the laws and the way they were formulated and applied in the applicants’ case had been discriminatory and, overall, served no legitimate public interest.
Indeed, by adopting such laws the authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values of a democratic society.
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the court held, by six votes to one, that Russia was to pay 8,000 euros (EUR) to Bayev, EUR 15,000 to Kiselev and EUR 20,000 to Alekseyev in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
Kiselev and Alekseyev were also awarded EUR 45 and EUR 180, respectively, in respect of pecuniary damage. A total of EUR 5,963 was awarded for costs and expenses.
Introduced initially at regional level in 2003 and 2006 and then at federal level in 2013, the laws banning so-called “propaganda of homosexuality” constitute, according to the applicants, a virtually full prohibition on nearly any public mention of homosexuality.
In particular, the Code of Administrative Offences was amended in 2013 to specifically ban “the promoting of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors, … creating a distorted image of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships.”
As a protest against these laws, the three applicants had staged demonstrations between 2009 and 2012, first in front of a secondary school in Ryazan, then a children’s library in Arkhangelsk and lastly an administrative building in St Petersburg. They held banners stating that homosexuality is natural/normal and not a perversion. All the applicants were subsequently found guilty of
All the applicants were subsequently found guilty of administrative offences and given fines.
They appealed, without success.