The national Russian law that forbids speaking well of all things gay, was first preceded by a number of similar laws in local jurisdictions. Thanks to gay rights activist Irina Fet, (left) the ‘gay propaganda’ law from one of those localities has been struck down by a Russian court. Russian legal experts say the ruling may signal the beginning of end for the national law as well.
In 2009, before the national don’t-say-gay law was passed, Ryazan, a city of around a half-million people about 120 miles south of Moscow, passed its own homophobic law. Although homosexuality is legal in Russia, it became illegal in Ryazan to promote the gay lifestyle in front of children.
Irina Fet, a member of the activist group Moscow Pride, began protesting the law in front of schools and libraries. That’s Irina with her protest sign below. It reads:
‘Homosexuality is normal’ and ‘I am proud of my homosexuality’
As she knew she would be, Irina was arrested, convicted of “informing minors about homosexuality” and fined 1500 rubles, the equivalent of about $50. Irina’s group, Moscow Pride, appealed the ruling, but lost at the local level. After that initial defeat, the case was sent to the UN Human Rights Committee for review.
In October of last year, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the Ryazan law was not in compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and that Ryazan had violated Fet’s right to freedom of expression and protection from discrimination. Yesterday, the Russian Court reviewed the international committee’s findings, and reversed their initial verdict. The court has now dismissed all charges against Irina. The finance minister is negotiating with Irina and Moscow Pride to compensate Irina for “moral damages”.
According to Gay Star News, Nikolai Alekseev, a lawyer and one of Russia’s foremost gay rights activists, described the court’s reversal as a ‘severe blow’ to the country’s gay propaganda laws. Nikolai:
‘Full justice is restored. It is written now in a Russian court. It is a decision that is extremely important.
“The Russian judiciary is moving forward with the international courts, and agreeing with their view of the legal aspects of sexual orientation.
We will see this federal law repealed at some point because the international community is already legally pressuring the Russian courts.
There’s a lot of talk and discussion, boycotts and stuff like that, with all this discussion you don’t see all the real legal work that has been done in the last year.
‘This is what really has an effect.’
Unlike the American judicial system, Russia does not rely on “precedent” in determining the legality of its laws, (and imagine the US turning to the UN for guidance) but the two laws are not completely independent of one another either. According to Gay Star News, a Russian judiciary agreeing with an international ruling is a sign the country could be forced, in years to come, to repeal the federal law.
Photos from Irina’s Facebook page
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