A top European court ruled on Tuesday that laws banning LGBTQ events in Russia violate the civil rights of queer and trans people.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued its latest blow to Russia’s infamous anti-gay “propaganda” law, which has resulted in Pride events and other rallies being unilaterally blocked across the country. In a decisive Nov. 27 verdict, the ECHR argued that preventing LGBTQ people from gathering peacefully is “in breach of their right to freedom of assembly.”
“[T]he ban on holding LGBTQ public assemblies imposed by the domestic authorities did not correspond to a pressing social need and was thus not necessary in a democratic society,” the Court wrote in its ruling.
“The Court also finds that the applicants suffered unjustified discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, that that discrimination was incompatible with the standards of the Convention, and that they were denied an effective domestic remedy in respect of their complaints concerning a breach of their freedom of assembly,” the judgment continued.
The ECHR added that the country’s denial of LGBTQ-related events “clearly…motivated by the authorities’ disapproval of the theme of the demonstrations.”
The Strasbourg, France-based court ordered the Kremlin to undertake “systemic measures” to address violations of the European Convention of Human Rights. This includes “a sustained and long-term effort to adopt general measures” combating widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Since the Duma passed a 2013 bill forbidding the spread of information on “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minors, the number of hate crimes targeting queer and trans Russian has more than doubled.
Although President Vladimir Putin has insisted LGBTQ people are not persecuted in Russia, authorities routinely harass and arrest activists who organize in spite of their events being banned. Thirty individuals were detained in September following a rally at St. Petersburg’s Palace Square, with police reportedly targeting those dressed in the most colorful clothing.
City officials refused to allow the event, calling it “harmful to the health of children.”
This isn’t the first time the ECHR has issued a sharp rebuke to Russia’s anti-gay policies. In June 2017, the Strasbourg, France-based court forced the country to pay $49,000 in damages resulting from the “propaganda” law, claiming it had fanned the flames of prejudice against LGBTQ people.
The latest case was brought forward by seven activists who filed 51 complaints against Russia for refusing to allow permits to hold LGBTQ events. Some cases date back to 2009, even before the national “propaganda” law’s passage.
The Duma bill was based on a similar measure passed a year earlier in St. Petersburg.
But while previous cases brought before the ECHR have resulted in financial penalties against Russia, the court dismissed pleas for compensation ranging between $5,600 and $566,000. They claimed the decisive victory for LGBTQ rights was “sufficient just satisfaction.”
Local media reported that Russia is considering pulling out from the European Convention of Human Rights following less-than-favorable rulings on its laws.
The country signed onto the international treaty more than two decades ago.
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