With each passing day, the reality of Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda” becomes more evident. It does exactly what we all said it would, censors and punishes anyone who speaks up for equality or helps gay people in any way. A group that helps gay teens deal with their problems has now been charged under that law.
For tens of thousands of LGBT Russian teenagers, Elena Klimova’s “Children 404” group has been a refuge, the only place in an increasingly homophobic society where they can discuss their sexuality without fear of reprisal.
“I was 13 when I understood that something was wrong with me,” Ilya, a teenager from the central Russian city of Ufa, wrote on the group’s page on Russian Facebook clone Vkontakte. “I just started liking one of my classmates one day, and I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Stories like Ilya’s may be enough to see the group temporarily suppressed — or even permanently shuttered — under Russia’s controversial ban on “gay propaganda.” On Monday, Russia’s state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, announced that it was charging journalist Elena Klimova, the group’s founder, with “promoting homosexuality to minors.”The full extent of the charges will become clear on Tuesday, when a local branch of the agency sends a report to a magistrate, the agency said in a statement on its Facebook page. Under the law, Klimova’s group can be fined 1 million rubles (about $21,000) and forcibly shut down for 90 days.
Founded during the upswell in officially backed homophobia last year that preceded the passage of the law, Klimova’s group takes after the American “It Gets Better” campaign, offering teenagers a space to share their stories anonymously to a sympathetic audience of their peers. In the more difficult cases, a team of 15 volunteer psychologists offer the teens professional help.
The Russian government, and Vladimir Putin specifically, has pretty much gone full-on fascist.