A Russian social worker who founded a support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people has been convicted and fined under the country's anti-LGBT propaganda law. The case is the latest to draw criticism from human rights groups, which have continued to condemn the law since it was passed ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Lena Klimova, 26, wrote in a Facebook post Saturday that a magistrate judge found her guilty of spreading “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” a violation of the law authorized by President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
“The verdict is a fine of 50,000 rubles ($783). We will appeal,” she wrote, as quoted by AFP, which reported that the verdict doesn't force the immediate closure of Children-404, though it does make that more likely.
Klimova founded the Children-404 support group in March 2013 as an online outlet for children and teens living in a country where homosexuals are regularly demonized by lawmakers and assaulted in the streets. The “404” in the group's name is a play on the “Error 404 – Page Not Found” message found online. The slogan for the website translates to “We Exist!” and thousands of teens have flocked to the site since it was founded in 2013.
The news of Klimova's conviction follows a previous attempt by the same court to charge her for her work with Children-404 last year. The case was dropped, but St. Petersburg Legislative Assemblyman Vitaly Milonov immediately vowed to punish the site for helping “perverts” and “sickos.”
Shawn Gaylord, a representative from Human Rights First, said in a press release that the case against Klimova is further proof that the international community should not ignore the Russian law.
“It's been nearly a year since the Sochi Olympics brought international attention to the situation for Russia's LGBT community. While much is happening in the world, it is crucial that we not move on to the next issue and ignore what is happening in Russia, particularly when neighboring countries such as Kyrgyzstan appear to be following suit,” Gaylord said in the release. “Russian activists who are standing up for justice and human rights for all still face persecution and we must continue to support their efforts.”