reposted from Care2Causes:
Europe has Ruled Russia’s Gay Propaganda Law Illegal, So What Now?
The ruling covers a series of statutes that have been introduced at the local level in Russia since 2003 and at the national level in 2013. The federal law in particular has been lambasted as vague and so overreaching it virtually bans all LGBTQIA positive speech. The law prohibits the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships among minors” and also the fostering or creation of “a distorted image of the social equivalence of traditional and nontraditional sexual relationships.”
The ruling centered on the cases of three activists who were detained and found guilty after protesting the law between 2009 and 2012.
Russia has repeatedly faced criticism and condemnation from the ECHR as Vladimir Putin’s presidency ushered in a wave of tight controls on civil rights and a denial of basic freedoms.
But what will Russia do now?
We might ask will this make any difference to Russia’s lawmakers? Unfortunately, the short term answer is probably not.
Russia has made a worrying habit of ignoring international standards that it doesn’t like, even going so far as to pass legislation in 2015 to establish that its own Constitutional Court has the final say on human rights matters, not the ECHR. Russia cannot move unilaterally in this manner of course, but that hasn’t stopped it in this or other cases–indeed, Reuters notes that of the 228 cases brought before the court in recent years, Russia has violated the European Convention in all but six.
True to form, within hours of this most recent ruling, Russia issued a statement saying it would appeal. Russia’s federal lawmakers also noted that, due to the previously mentioned legislation, they believe Russia’s Constitutional Court has supremacy and so Russia is not bound to follow the ECHR’s determinations anyway.
As such, we once again see that, without a strong mechanism for enforcement, the ECHR’s ruling appears blunted at best.
However, local activists have said this legal victory is historic precisely because the ECHR dismantled Russia’s reasoning for the law and affirmed that the law does nothing to protect children but instead discriminates against LGBTQIA people:
“The way this law has been applied shows that it is not aimed at protecting minors, but at removing LGBT people, an enormous social group, from the public space, and at stripping them of their right to speak out or fight for their rights,” Nikolai Alekseyev, one of the people prosecuted under this law, is quoted as saying.
It’s unlikely that Russia will heed Mr Alekseyev’s calls and repeal the law. Nevertheless, the ruling is important for activists who can at the very least use the ECHR’s ruling to avail themselves of other legal help. For example, should LGBTQIA people wish to leave Russia and seek asylum elsewhere, this provides them with yet more evidence of Russia’s consistent and pervasive discrimination. This of course is in addition to the ongoing Chechen situation where a number of gay and bisexual men have been imprisoned and reportedly tortured.
One other area in which this ruling may be important is that it could act as a retarding force to prevent other likeminded national governments from adopting similar laws. We’ve seen North African nations use the gay propaganda law model for some of their own restrictions–which isn’t surprising given that both Russia and North Africa have been courted by American evangelicals who have exported their anti-LGBT animus abroad. A few nations in Europe have adopted similar laws though, and a few others have flirted with them. The ECHR ruling may rob momentum from any future attempts at such laws, something that is not insignificant.
So can we say that this is an unqualified victory? Certainly not. But the ECHR’s ruling should be reason for international governments to finally do more than just condemn Russia for its anti-LGBT actions and start using sanctions and other legal mechanisms to actually enforce human rights standards–because without enforcement those standards are simply empty promises.