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UN rules Russian 'gay gag' law violates human rights

UN Human Rights Committee passed a landmark ruling saying a Russian law against ‘homosexual propaganda’ is discriminatory, violates the basic right for freedom of expression and unconstitutional
Lesbian activist Irina Fedotova was found guilty in 2009 for promoting 'homosexual propaganda' to minors by a Ryazan court - UNHRC said the ruling is discriminatory and violates the freedom of expression

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) found Russia’s application of Ryazan region anti ‘homosexual propaganda’ law against LGBT rights activist Irina Fedotov to be in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the grounds of freedom of expression and discrimination.

LGBT activists say that this historic landmark ruling will have far reaching effect not only in Russia but worldwide on other countries that legislated, or plan to, laws against ‘homosexual propaganda’ such as Lithuania and the Ukraine.

In 30 March, 2009 LGBT activists of GayRussia.Ru and Moscow Pride, Irina Fedotova and Nikolai Baev were arrested and fined in Ryazan city for promoting ‘homosexual propaganda’ by holding placards saying ‘Homosexuality is normal’ and ‘I am proud of my homosexuality - Ask me about it’, outside a state library and school in Ryazan city.

Ryazan’s law was the first of nine Russian regions which passed similar laws.

After appeals to Russia’s constitutional court were reject in 2010, the case of Fedotova was sent to the UNHRC and of Baev to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

UNHRC’s ruling was published on Friday 23 November stating that Fedotova was not promoting ‘any particular sexual activity or … advocating for any particular sexual orientation.

‘Instead, she was giving expression to her sexual identity and seeking understanding for it.’

As such it found Russia violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which it is a signatory, on two counts: freedom of expression and discrimination.

It stated that the law was unclear and should be repealed.

UNHRC demanded that Fedotova be compensated by Russia and that the country must submit a report no later than in 6 months’ time how the ruling was implemented.

UNHRC also stated that it will closely ‘monitor’ Russia’s progress on this matter.

Speaking with Gay Star News, Nikolai Alexeyev, founder of GayRussia.Ru and chair of Moscow Pride said: ‘This rulling is very significant as it clearly contradicts statements by Russia on an international level that it does not discriminate against LGBT people. 

‘It is a strong legal argument that clearly states that Russia violates the freedom of expression and discrimination  of LGBT people which are human rights.

‘This will have a far reaching influence both on Russia but also in the international sphere.

'Domestically, I think eventually Russia will have to limit the manner in which these laws are applied, for example in terms of demonstrations or Pride marches, although I don’t believe they will be repealed.

‘It may well “cool down” the desire of Russian politicians and religions to pass similar laws, and also prevent such a law to be passed on a federal level.

‘This is testimony that despite much criticism levelled against our picketing the strategy worked and we have arrived to this landmark decision.

'It also affirms that LGBT activists have the right to discuss with minors tolerance towards gay people.

‘This is significant not only to psychological well-being but also to combat ignorance which is causing an increase of the HIV infection cases in Russia, particularly for LGBT youth.

‘This case will have concrete consequences and will be followed by further action in the Russian courts against other Russian regions that have passed such laws.

‘It has also enormous importance for combatting other countries that have or planning to pass similar laws for example, Lithuania and Ukraine.' 

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