Russia: Feminist activist Yulia Tsvetkova’s absurd ‘pornography’ trial starts

The trial of Yulia Tsvetkova, an artist, feminist and LGBTI rights activist, on absurd charges of pornography for her drawings of female bodies, will begin on 12 April in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Russia’s Far East region.

“This absurdity has lasted almost a year and a half. A woman has been criminally charged with ‘producing pornography’ simply for drawing and publishing images of the female body and freely expressing her views through art. During this ordeal, Yulia has spent time under house arrest and twice been subjected to extortionate fines under the so-called ‘gay propaganda’ law,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

A woman has been criminally charged with ‘producing pornography’ simply for drawing and publishing images of the female body and freely expressing her views through art
Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director

“Despite these ridiculous and unfounded charges, this case has somehow reached court. However the absurdity has not ended on the courtroom doorstep, as now the judge ruled that the trial will be closed to the public and the press under the pretext that Yulia’s so-called ‘pornographic materials’ will be examined during the hearings.

“The Russian authorities must stop trying to hide this Kafkaesque absurdity behind closed doors, and guarantee Yulia’s right to a public hearing. We also reiterate our call on the Russian authorities to immediately drop all charges against Yulia Tsvetkova, stop targeting feminist, LGBTI and other activists, and guarantee artistic freedom for all.”

Background

On 12 April, Yulia Tsvetkova’s trial will start in the Central District Court of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. She is charged with “production and dissemination of pornographic materials” (Article 242 (3b) of the Russian Criminal Code) for her body-positive drawings of vaginas that were published in Russian social network VKontakte. She was arbitrarily detained on 20 November 2019 and remained under house arrest until 16 March 2020.

On 11 December 2019, she was found guilty of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”, an administrative offence under Article 6.21 of the Code of Administrative Offences, and fined 50,000 rubles (US$ 780) for being the administrator of two LGBTI-themed online communities in VKontakte. On 10 July 2020, she was found guilty under the same article and fined 75,000 rubles (US$ 1,050) for her drawing “Family is where love is. Support LGBT+ families,” depicting two same-sex couples with children.

If found guilty of the charge of “producing and disseminating pornography”, Yulia Tsvetkova could face up to six years in prison.