Family and Demography Foundation defends Russian ban on homosexual propaganda among children before European Court of Human Rights

ECHR_logoA third party intervention arguing the case for Russian laws prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality among children has been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights by the Family and Democracy Foundation, a Russian NGO.

According to the rules of ECtHR, non-governmental organisations can, with the Court’s permission, make formal submissions presenting their position on the legal, ethical, and social aspects of a case as a third party.

The case in question deals with three complaints against the Russian government filed with the Court (Bayev v. Russia, App. No. 67667/09, Kiselev v. Russia, App. No. 44092/12, and Alekseyev v. Russia, App. No. 56717/12). The complainants are three gay activists fined for breaking the relevant regional Russian laws prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality among children. For example, in 2009 one of them, Nikolay Bayev (by whose name the case is now referred to in the Court’s documents database) held a protest in front of a Ryazan school displaying banners reading ‘Homosexuality is normal’ and ‘I’m proud of my homosexuality’, for which he was fined 1500 roubles (around $50). However, online articles describing the actions imply they were aimed at attracting a civil penalty specifically to enable them to challenge the relevant laws in Russian courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

The case was officially communicated by ECtHR in October last year. The Russian laws protecting children from propaganda of homosexuality, the complainants argued, had had them discriminated against, and infringed on their right to freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. According to the Court’s statement of facts, the complainants also claimed the laws in question prohibited ‘mere mention of homosexuality’, irrespective of the content of the message.

These claims are contested by the Family and Demography Foundation:

‘We are of the opinion that the statutory ban on propaganda of homosexuality among children is fully compliant with all the fundamental norms of international law, including European Convention of Human RIghts,’ argues the Foundation’s Legal Affairs Director and World Congress of Families Advisor for International Human Rights Law Pavel Parfentiev. ‘It is well documented in medical research that homosexual lifestyle is associated with increased risks to one’s physical and mental health. Moreover, most Russian citizens regard homosexualism and its propaganda as immoral. Given all that, the Convention and the European Court’s own case-law recognise the protection of health and morals of the children, as well as the protection of the family in its traditional sense, as legitimate grounds for restricting an individual’s right to freedom of expression. As for claims that the law supposedly prohibits mere mentioning of homosexuality, they are altogether incorrect.’

The Foundation applied to the Court for permission to present, in accordance with ECtHR rules, its position on the case’s legal and ethical aspects.

‘Having had applied for the permission to state our position on the case, which the Court granted in mid-January, we have duly submitted our written observations,’ comments Mr Parfentiev. ‘We are confident that the disputed Russian law is not infringing anyone’s rights and is not discriminating against anyone. Unfortunately, given that, as we think, in the last years many of ECtHR’s rulings on these matters were sadly very ideological in nature and clearly served the interests of ‘sexual minorities’ rather than the rule of law itself, we cannot be sure the Court will agree with our arguments. But it would have been wrong to remain silent.’

The Family and Demography Foundation is a Russian non-profit organization primarily engaged in family and parental rights advocacy and the protection of human rights and human dignity relevant to it. Along with the For Family Rights NGO, the Foundation is a co-founder of the FamilyPolicy.RU Advocacy group providing lawmakers, the public, and the media with expert advice informing family- and parents-friendly policies. The Foundation also serves as World Congress of Families’ representative in Russia, actively engaged in preparations for WCF VIII, due to take place in Moscow, September 2014.

The full English text of the observations submitted by the Foundation to the European Court of Human Rights will later be available online at FamilyPolicy.RU

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