'An Essentially Private Manifestation of Human Personality': Constructions of Homosexuality in the European Court of Human Rights

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Publication details

JournalHuman Rights Law Review
DateE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jan 2010
DatePublished (current) - Mar 2010
Issue number1
Number of pages31
Pages (from-to)67-97
Early online date27/01/10
Original languageEnglish


This article explores the continuing evolution of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of homosexuality. In considering the Court’s case law as a mechanism through which homosexuality is discursively constructed, the article examines how this discourse both enables and constrains human rights in relation to sexual orientation in contemporary Europe. The discursive construction of homosexuality that underlies the Court’s interpretation of the Convention in respect of sexual orientation produces a problematic outcome for sexual minorities: whilst it has been instrumental in socialising a pan-European consensus on intimate and sexual privacy, the Court’s understanding of homosexuality ultimately sustains a separation between the rights associated with the private and public spheres and, in doing so, fails to address the ongoing social discrimination experienced by gay men and lesbians.

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