Invisible Richness: Culturally and Religiously Diverse Families before the European Court of Human Rights

Some European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments are more telling than one could expect, especially when they are read in the wider context within which they arise. Sometimes their richness lies more in what they do not say than in what they do say. This ‘invisible’ richness features among a number of judgments concerning parent–child relationships and religion. Religious freedom is often at the very core of the human struggle of the applicants in such cases or is, at least, one of the principal motivations underlying their complaint, yet it attracts only limited or marginal attention in this area of case law. Against this backdrop, this project is designed to pursue a threefold aim. The first aim is to identify the multiple trajectories that the ‘religious’ element – whenever of relevance – has taken in Strasbourg proceedings involving parent–child relationships. Second, this project is geared towards arriving at and advancing potential explanations for the Court’s approach to religion and cultural diversity in the family context. Third, the analysis delves into the perceptions of the applicants to understand how ‘going to Strasbourg’ (the procedure as well as the outcome) affects, among other things, their trust in the ECtHR, their perception of justice and, more broadly, their daily lives. These aims are pursued by combining doctrinal and empirical methods of research. More specifically, document analysis is augmented with qualitative interviews conducted with some of the protagonists involved in the litigation, including applicants, lawyers, NGO representatives, and (former) ECtHR judges.

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