© Dmitriy Protsenko via Flickr

The European Courts of Human Rights (ECoHR) has ruled that Russia has infringed on the freedoms of activists protesting their ‘gay propaganda’ bill.

In 2013, Russia’s lower house of parliament, State Duma, passed a law which imposed heavy fines on individuals that shared information on homosexuality to people under the age of 18. It was later announced additional readings of the bill banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors would take place a few days later at the State Duma.

On 11 June, media and gay rights protesters challenging the legislative ban, and a group of conservative Orthodox Christian activists who were supporting the bill, were present outside the State Duma building. The Christian activists chanted “Moscow is not Sodom!” as the activists called out “Moscow is not Iran” and “Fascism shall not pass”.

The LGBTQ+ protesters were surrounded by riot police and officers and pushed into buses. Meanwhile, those congregating and acting in favour of the bill were not treated roughly or fined. However, the Russian government argued, during the assembly, police also apprehended supporters of the bill.

Russian domestic courts state they found the applicants liable for violating procedures by taking part in an “unauthorised gathering”. In particular, the courts considered it “unlawful” that some protesters shouted slogans and failed to verify whether the gathering was legitimate.

The protesters in question challenged the court’s belief and complained they were subjected to disproportionate measures as “participants of a peaceful public assembly”. Moreover, the applicants reiterated their complaints that those who came in support of the bill were not subjected to arrests, fines or sanctions. 

On October 13, the ECoHR committee rejected the government’s claims and have ordered Russia to award applicants 5,000 euros (EUR) in damages each.

Russia has upheld a track record of curbing LGBTQ+ progression and has faced several interventions from the ECoHR with the country trying to ban Pride events in 2018 and attempting to action a “gay propaganda” law in 2017.