CCR №6(121) 2017
Is the LGBT Community a “social group”? Sociological criteria for understanding court interpretations

Abstract
Judges make use of expert knowledge in social science when interpreting a wide range of terms of a specific discipline – mentioned in statutes – in their rulings in order to ensure the implementation of the principles of the rule of law in the courtroom. One of these notions is the term “social group,” which is used by legislators to draft criminal law norms in respect to aggravating circumstances. This term is well known for sociologists who employ it to identify a group of people united by common interests. However, while interpreting this term in courts, judges face many troubles in identifying if a group of individuals should be considered to be a social group. The LGBT community (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals) forms part of this trouble for judges. In courts of various levels in Russia, the LGBT community is not always recognized as a social group and sometimes this recognition is straightforwardly denied in court rulings. This article aims to learn if it is conventional for sociological literature to understand the LGBT community as a social group. Firstly, criteria of defining a group of persons as a social group are elaborated on the basis of classic sociological works. Secondly, an overview of the sociological literature dedicated to research in LGBT communities is conducted in order to learn whether sociologists use the term “social group” to refer to the subjects of their studies. This analysis shows that for sociologists in Russia and across the world, it is conventional to classify the LGBT community as a “social group.”

About the author
Alexander Kondakov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Sociology, Assistant Professor, European University at Saint Petersburg; Researcher, Centre for Independent Social Research; Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Citation
Kondakov A. (2017) Yavlyayutsya li LGBT sotsial’noy gruppoy? Sotsiologicheskie kriterii ponyatiya dlya sudebnykh interpretatsiy [Is the LGBT Community a “social group”? Sociological criteria for understanding court interpretations]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, no.6, pp.131–144. (In Russian).

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