News (World)

Russian court drops ‘gay propaganda’ charge against lesbian activist

RYAZAN, Russia — A ruling by a Russian court last week that dismissed an administrative charge against a lesbian activist under a regional “gay propaganda” law, has been lauded by Russian LGBT activists as a sign that the federal law will eventually be overturned.

Irina Fedotova and fellow gay rights activist Nikolai Bayev were protesting the regional law passed in 2006 by the Ryazan legislature, banning “the promotion of homosexuality among minors,” when they were arrested and cited in 2009.

RussiaAccording court documents, Fedotova and Bayev were standing near schools and libraries in the city of Ryazan, about 325 kilometers southeast of Moscow, holding posters reading “Homosexuality is normal” and “I am proud of my homosexuality.”

They were arrested and convicted and each fined 1,500 rubles (about $50 USD).

The legal case against the pair was the first prosecution of the regional law regarding a ban on “gay propaganda.”

In 2010, Fedotova submitted a formal legal complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (Fedotova v. Russian Federation), alleging that the administrative penalty violated her right to freedom of expression and protection from discrimination, which is protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which, the Russian federation is among the 74 signatories nations to the covenant.

In its ruling earlier this year, the UN committee said the Russian court “was unable to prove that the restriction of the right to freedom of expression in regards to ‘gay propaganda,’ as opposed to propaganda of heterosexuality or sexuality in general, among minors was based on rational or objective criteria.”

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“Furthermore, no evidence was presented that would indicate the existence of factors justifying such a distinction,” the UN committee said.

Bayev took his case to the European Court of Human Rights also in 2010, where his case is still pending.

Innokenty ‘Kes’ Grekov, the Russian coordinator for New York-based Human Rights First, told LGBTQ Nation on Wednesday that the decision by the Ryazan Oblast court was a critical first step in challenging the national law signed by president Vladimir Putin in June.

Grekov noted that the ruling raises questions about how the national law will be applied, including what constitutes “promotion” of a homosexual lifestyle among minors and whether enforcement will differ on regional and federal levels.

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