ECtHR: Russia violated rights of teacher sacked over ‘immoral’ photos

ECtHR: Russia violated rights of teacher sacked over 'immoral' photos

Russia violated the rights of a schoolteacher who was sacked in 2014 over social media posts including photos of her kissing other women, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

The teacher, AK, began working as a music teacher in a state school for children with special needs in her home town of St Petersburg in 2011.

In November 2014, she was brought to a meeting and informed of a “dossier” on her private life prepared by a group called the Parents of Russia. This included, among other images, pictures of AK kissing other women and of her raising her middle finger to the cinema.

On the basis that she had circulated “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation” and brought the vocation of a teacher into disrepute, AK was asked by school authorities to resign her position, but refused.

In December 2014, AK submitted to the school, among other arguments, that there had been no previous complains concerning her conduct. However, she was dismissed from her position the same day for “immoral acts incompatible with continued performance of teaching activities”.

The Kirovskiy District Court of St Petersburg dismissed a lawsuit challenging her dismissal, finding the school’s argument that someone in a “child-rearing” position should not engage in so-called immoral activities to be valid. Her appeal and two cassation appeals were also unsuccessful.

AK submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in August 2016.

In this week’s Chamber judgment, the court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights and a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8.

The court found in particular that dismissing the applicant had been grossly disproportionate and that that reaction from the school management had been a result of discrimination against her sexual orientation.

The judges ordered Russia to pay €6,500 to the applicant in respect of pecuniary damage, €10,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and €6,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

Russia ceased to be party to the ECHR in September 2022 as a result of its expulsion from the Council of Europe in response to its invasion of Ukraine. The court retains jurisdiction over applications lodged before that date, though Russia no longer recognises this.

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