Finally some good news for gays in Russia: The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia’s gay propaganda law “discriminatory and, over all, served no legitimate public interest.” Additionally, it has ordered Russia to pay three activists who staged demonstrations from 2009 to 2012—Nikolai V. Bayev, Aleksei A. Kiselev, and Nikolai A. Alekseyev—a total of $48,000 in the case that challenged guilty verdicts from Russia’s Constitutional Court.
The gay propaganda law was signed in 2013, and soon after the ensuing wave of anti-gay violence received international media scrutiny. The law bans the “promotion” of “non-traditional sexual relations” toward children, as well as “creating a distorted image of the social equivalence of traditional and nontraditional sexual relationships.”
...The court flatly rejected the government’s claim that regulating public debate on homosexuality served to protect morals. Russia “failed to demonstrate how freedom of expression on L.G.B.T. issues would devalue or otherwise adversely affect actual and existing ‘traditional families’ or would compromise their future,” the court found.
...The court also found that Russia had been unable to “provide any explanation of the mechanism” by which a minor might be enticed into a “homosexual lifestyle,” “let alone science-based evidence that one’s sexual orientation or identity was susceptible to change under external influence.”
On the issue of nondiscrimination, the judges found that “differences based solely on considerations of sexual orientation” are unacceptable under the European convention.
What a satisfying decision, and it only took four years to officially get there.
It remains to be seen how this ruling will affect the quality of life for Russia’s gay citizens, and when. For now, there’s still the matter of Chechnya, the Russian republic where earlier this year it was reported gay men were being rounded up and held in prison camps where they are tortured and, in some cases, murdered. Vice News Tonight recently went to one of the detention centers and reported on it:
Ayub Kataev, the warden of Argun prison, flatly denies the claims that he’s ever arrested or tortured gays while echoing the words of Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who claimed in May that Chechnya isn’t home to gay people, thus isn’t torturing them. “Imagine if there were gays, would we communicate with them at all?” he says. “My officers would not even want to touch some people let alone beating or torturing them.”
Several other sources in the Vice piece dispute Kataev’s and Kadyrov’s claims. Tatiana Lokshina, the Russian program director for the Human Rights Watch, says claims of torture were credible, but they they haven’t received new claims in a while, thus, “It seems like the Kremlin made Kadyrov stop,” as a result of the consolidated international pressure on Russia in the wake of the news of these camps.