European Court of Human Rights: ‘Homosexual Propaganda’ bans violate freedom of expression

On 28 February 2014, ARTICLE 19 and INTERRIGHTS submitted third-party interventions with the European Court of Human Right in the case of Bayev and Others v Russia.  

The case concerns the prosecution of three human rights campaigners – Nikolay Bayev, Aleksey Kiselev and Nikolay Alekseyev – for violating Russian legislation prohibiting so-called “homosexual propaganda.” The activists have been fined for their participation in demonstrations condemning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Since 2006, a number of regional laws have been enacted in Russia prohibiting the dissemination of any positive information about homosexuality on the basis that false and harmful assertion that the restrictions are necessary to protect minors. Russia last year adopted a ban on the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” at the Federal level, which has since been applied to restrict the freedom of expression rights of the media, civil society actors, and educators.

ARTICLE 19 and INTERRIGHTS argue that “homosexual propaganda” bans are incompatible with international human rights law. In particular, we argue:

  • The right to freedom of expression encompasses the right to freely express one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as the freedom to seek, receive and impart information on issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity. Prohibitions that restrict these information flows discriminate against LGBT people, and deny all people their right to freedom of expression and information.
  • Contrary to the arguments of the Russian government, homosexual propaganda laws are harmful to children whom they purportedly aimed to protect, in particular undermining their rights to health and education.
  • “Homosexual propaganda” bans foster a climate of hostility towards members of the LGBT community and their supporters, normalising discrimination and significantly increasing the risk of homophobic and transphobic violence;

ARTICLE 19 and the INTERIGHTS hope that the amicus will inform the decision of the European Court in this case. We also believe the case presents an opportunity for the Court to take position on homosexual propaganda legislation as such, not only in Russia but in the former Soviet countries and beyond.

You can read our amicus brief here.

Posted In