Russia: Courts invoke ‘family values’ to block LGBTIQ groups online

A Russian court has ordered the social media platform Vkontakte to block two popular LGBTIQ groups for sharing information that allegedly goes against family values.

The Oktyabrskiy District Court in Saint Petersburg court found that the groups Russian LGBT Community and Russian LGBT Network  provided information that  “negates family values, propagates non-traditional sexual relations and promotes disrespectful attitudes towards parents”. 

The groups are the latest LGBTIQ campaigners to be silenced by Russia’s ‘homosexual propaganda ban’, which became law in 2013, ostensibly to ‘protect’ young people. The law makes “promoting non-traditional sexual relations to minors” illegal. Over the last six years, it has been used to fine LGBTQI people and block websites that provide advice and support. 

ARTICLE 19’s Head of Europe and Central Asia, Sarah Clarke said:

Sarah Clarke said:

“These groups provide vital information and support to LGBTIQ people in Russia. The Russian authorities must stop these attacks on the LGBTIQ community and repeal the ‘homosexual propaganda’ law that violates their right to freedom of expression.

This law fosters 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.”

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.”

The affected groups are:

Russian LGBT Community, one of the most popular online LGBTQI groups on Russian social media with more than 187,000 members. The group was created in 2017 and has provided extensive support to LGBTQI people in Russia, who are heavily restricted by repressive laws.

Russian LGBT Network, a civil society organisation that promotes equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Founded in 2008, the network provides legal services as well as bringing together national and international advocacy groups.

The blocking is likely to come into effect at the end of October but very few details about the case have been made public. Aleksandr Belik, lawyer for the Russian LGBT Network, commented that “judgments are rendered wholesale” with very little scrutiny of the evidence.  

Clarke added:

“It appears that the Russian courts are carrying out the wholesale blocking of websites, with orders from one court simply being copied and re-issued by other courts.  Blocking can have a huge impact on people who are looking for help and support. 

Courts can order the blocking of websites without informing the owners of these sites and giving them an opportunity to dispute the decision. At the very least, there needs to be full transparency and due process about these decisions: those affected should be notified and given the opportunity to appeal.”

Contact

For more information, please contact Pam Cowburn, 0044 7749 785 932, [email protected]

Notes to Editor

In 2014, ARTICLE 19 and INTERRIGHTS submitted third-party interventions with the European Court of Human Right Bayev and Others v Russia, over the prosecution of three human rights campaigners – Nikolay Bayev, Aleksey Kiselev and Nikolay Alekseyev – for taking part in demonstrations condemning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

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