‘Homosexual Propaganda’ Laws in the Russian Federation: Are They in Violation of the European Convention on Human Rights?


Full Text:


This article examines recently enacted legislation in the Russian Federation designed to regulate so-called ‘homosexual propaganda.’ Through an analysis of the extant jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (Eur. Ct. H.R.) in respect of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the article considers the extent to which the existence and enforcement of ‘homosexual propaganda’ laws can be said to violate rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The article demonstrates weaknesses in current Eur. Ct. H.R.’s jurisprudence – specifically in relation to Arts. 10, 11 and 14 of the ECHR – and argues that it requires significant evolution to better protect sexual minorities in Russia and elsewhere.

About the Author

Paul Johnson
University of York (York, United Kingdom)
Russian Federation

Professor of Sociology at University of York, Department of Sociology (Heslington, York, North Yorkshire, YO 10 5DD, UK


1. Johnson, Paul. Making Unjust Law: The Parliament of Uganda and the AntiHomosexuality Act 2014, 68(2) Parliamentary Affairs (2014). doi:10.1093/pa/gsu021 Letter to Volodymyr Lytvyn, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Council of Europe, Secretary General (October 4, 2012), at <https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent? ocumentId=0900001680089060> (accessed May 16, 2015).

2. License to Harm: Violence and Harassment against LGBT People and Activists in Russia (Human Rights Watch 2014), at <http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/russia1214_ForUpload.pdf> (accessed May 16, 2015).

3. Memorandum for the European Commission for Democracy through Law in View It Preparing an Opinion on the Russian and Ukrainian Laws Limiting Propaganda of Homosexuality, Family and Demography Foundation, Interregional Public Organization ‘For Family Rights,’ All-Ukrainian Public Organization ‘The Parents’ Committee of Ukraine’ (May 9, 2013), at <http://www.familypolicy.ru/rep/int-13-050en.pdf> (accessed May 16, 2015).

4. O’Flaherty, Michael. Freedom of Expression: Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No 34, 12(4) Human Rights Law Review (2012). doi:10.1093/hrlr/ngs030

5. On the Issue of the Prohibition of So-Called ‘Propaganda of Homosexuality’ in the Light of Recent Legislation in Some Member States of the Council of Europe, Venice Comm’n, Opinion 707/2012 (CDL-AD(2013)022), ¶ 82 (2013), at <http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2013)022-e> (accessed May 16, 2015).

6. Pinfold, Corinne. Putin Signs Anti-‘Gay Propaganda’ Bill into Law, Pink News (Jun. 30, 2013), <http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/06/30/russia-putin-signs-antigay-propaganda-bill-into-law/> (accessed May 16, 2015).

7. Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development, U.N. Human Rights Council Res. 21/3, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/RES/21/3 (October 9, 2012), at <http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESO LUT ION/GEN/G12/173/96/PDF/G1217396.pdf?OpenElement> (accessed May 16, 2015).

8. Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 to Member States on Measures to Combat Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, 1081st mtg., Appendix, ¶¶ 13, 31 (2010), at <https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1606669> (accessed May 16, 2015).

9. Russia Must Drop Draft Bill That Would Penalize ‘Homosexual Propaganda’ – UN Experts, UN News Centre (Feb. 1, 2013), <http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp? NewsID=44050&Cr=lesbian&Cr1=#.UdKijKVpLA5> (accessed May 16, 2015).

10. Submission to the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) of the Council of Europe: The Implementation of Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Measures to Combat Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, Amnesty International (Feb. 15, 2013), <http://www.refworld.org/docid/513068412.html> (accessed May 16, 2015).

11. Tackling Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Res. 1948, ¶ 10.8 (2013), at <http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HT ML-en.asp?fileid=20010&lang=en> (accessed May 16, 2015).

12. Traditional Values? Attempts to Censor Sexuality: Homosexual Propaganda Bans, Freedom of Expression and Equality (Article 19 2013), at <http://www.refworld.org/docid/513da4692.html> (accessed May 16, 2015).

13. Wintemute, Robert. ‘Within the Ambit:’ How Big Is the ‘Gap’ in Article 14 European Convention on Human Rights?, 2004(4) European Human Rights Law Review.

Supplementary files

For citation: Johnson P. ‘Homosexual Propaganda’ Laws in the Russian Federation: Are They in Violation of the European Convention on Human Rights?. Russian Law Journal. 2015;3(2):37-61. https://doi.org/10.17589/2309-8678-2015-3-2-37-61

Views: 4767


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2309-8678 (Print)
ISSN 2312-3605 (Online)