No, a ‘World Court of Human Rights’ did not rule on same-sex marriage

A misleading viral social media post rehashes old information about a European court’s ruling on gay marriage

The viral post circulating around Namibian WhatsApp groups claims that the World Court of Human Rights based in Strasbourg is the most important human rights court in the world, and that it has established that there is no right to same sex marriage.

The sharing of the post comes at a time that Namibia too is divided by the debate over whether to legalise gay marriage.

The post reads as follows:

The post has been forwarded many times in WhatsApp groups and was forwarded to Namibia Fact Check on 25 March 2023 for verification.

First off, there are a number of obviously problematic or false statements in the post, specifically:

  • There is no World Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is situated in Strasbourg, France;
  • The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is not “the most important human rights court in the world”, as the post claims;
  • The post claims that 47 judges from the 47 Council of Europe members sit on the court. The Council of Europe has 46 member countries.

Since there is no “World Court of Human Rights”, then it follows that it could not have made a ruling on gay marriage.

Also, the post is poorly written and confusing, which usually is a sign that it did not emanate from a credible source that would, at the very least, have ensured it was clearly readable.

The Facts

The poorly written and confusing text appears to have been copied from an article published by a Gambian website, on 25 November 2022, under the headline “Top EU court declared that same sex marriage is illegal“.

The headline is false, because no top EU court has declared same-sex marriage illegal.

That said, the post contains a link to an article on a right-wing French language website. The article was published online almost seven years ago, on 9 June 2016. The article references a case that had been decided by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in May 2016.

The case in question was Chapin and Charpentier v. France (application no. 40183/07) and in its ruling the ECHR found that the: “Prohibition in France of marriage between same-sex couples prior to the Law of 17 May 2013 was not contrary to the Convention.”

The court upheld its own earlier judgements that found that there was no right to same-sex marriage contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, but that it was up to states whether to legalise and recognise same-sex marriages.

The aim of those spreading the viral post appears to be to create the impression that same-sex marriage is illegal or unrecognised in Europe. However, the fact is that same-sex marriage is legally recognised in 19 European countries, including France, where such marriages have had the same legal status as heterosexual marriages since May 2013.

The Verdict

The post is misleading because it rehashes old information and misrepresents judgements on same-sex marriage emanating from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

31st March 2023

Tia-Zia //Garoes

Tia-Zia //Garoes is a trainee fact checker and researcher with Namibia Fact Check.