A Russian woman is on trial for “production and dissemination of pornographic materials” for sharing her drawings of the female body online. Activist Yulia Tsvetkova was arrested on 20 November 2019 and put on house arrest two days later after being charged. The charges relate to body-positive pictures including sketches of a woman’s vulva, which she posted on social media as part of her women’s empowerment campaign.
When she was arrested, police raided her house and her previous work. She says that the officers verbally abused her, saying she was a “lesbian, sex trainer and propagandist leader”.
Yulia has been victim to a homophobic campaign by the state since March 2019 when a play she directed, led to a police investigation on charges of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”, forcing her out of a job. Since, she has been charged and fined heavily for running two online LGBT+ groups. In January 2020, the same charges were brought against her for a drawing she posted on social media in support of a same-sex family who had to flee Russia because the authorities had threatened to take their children away from them.
Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law is being increasingly used to victimise LGBT activists. The law, adopted in 2013, makes it illegal to portray same-sex relations as socially acceptable in the public domain and in the presence of children. The “propaganda” law has been used against protests, social media posting, teachers, and mental health support services for LGBT youth. There has been criminal investigation of social workers who allowed a gay couple, married abroad, to adopt children, forcing the family to flee to the United States.
Like many right-wing states, increased homophobia in Russia is linked to a resurgent Russian nationalism. The sexist, homophobic and transphobic politics, sees the policing of sexuality and gender as essential to the reproduction of the population, needed to save the Russian people from extinction and to protect its borders. Feminism and LGBT people are presented as foreign evils.