European court rules against Russian 'gay propaganda law'

Activists claim 'an enormous victory' after judges say legislation promotes homophobia

gay rights russia

Russian laws banning the "promotion" of homosexual behaviour violate the right to freedom of expression and reinforce "stigma and prejudice", the European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday.

Following a protracted legal battle, judges declared in favour of three Russian gay rights activists, who say the four-year-old legislation, commonly known as the "gay propaganda law", is discriminatory and used to target and intimidate the LGBT community in the country.

They also rejected Moscow's claim that "regulating public debate on LGBT issues may be justified on the grounds of the protection of morals" and said that by adopting the law, Russia was encouraging homophobia.

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Claimant Nikolai Alexeyev told the LA Times the decision was "an enormous court victory for LGBT people in Russia,"

However, despite the court overseeing the application of the European Convention on Human Rights to the 47 members of the Council of Europe, which includes Russia, "it is unclear what impact the ruling will have", says The Independent.

While the judges' decisions are binding, a 2015 law passed by the Russian Duma says the constitution supersedes ECHR rulings.

Homosexuality was legalised in Russia in 1993, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but anti-gay sentiment remains strong. Earlier this year, the Russian federal republic of Chechnya was condemned following well-documented reports of the systematic persecution, imprisonment and torture of gay men, which its government denies.

The 2013 law "has been seen as a central plank of President Vladimir Putin's nationalist message, one that has positioned Russia as a defender of Christian and traditional values, and the West as decadent and godless", says the New York Times.

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