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Russian courts convict first people under new anti-LGBT law

by Abbey Fenbert February 2, 2024 6:11 AM 3 min read
A Russian LGBT rights activist shows a sign reading "Love is stronger than homophobia" from inside a Russian riot police van during an unauthorized LGBT rights rally in Moscow on May 25, 2013. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)
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Courts in Volgograd and Nizhny Novgorod oblasts issued the first convictions under a new law targeting LGBT activists in Russia, according to the courts' press services.  

Russia's Supreme Court declared "the international LGBT social movement" to be "an extremist organization" on Nov. 30, 2023 and banned all its activities.

A court in Volgograd Oblast on Feb. 1 found a defendant known as Artyom P. guilty of “displaying the symbols of an extremist organisation” and ordered him to pay a fine of 1,000 rubles ($11.05). The man had posted a picture of an LBGT flag online.

The court claimed that Artyom P. confessed, repented, and said he posted the flag "out of stupidity."

A court in Nizhny Novgorod on Jan. 29 sentenced a woman to serve five days in administrative detention for the crime of wearing frog-shaped earrings that displayed the image of a rainbow.

The LGBT rights group Aegis said a man demanded the woman remove her earrings, filmed the encounter, and posted the video online.

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It is not clear how Russian authorities define the "international LGBT movement" and its symbols. The six-color rainbow flag has been a global symbol of LGBT rights since the 1970s, but Russian lawmaker Alexander Khinstein told the state news outlet Kommersant that the law did not ban rainbows outright.

Khinstein claimed that a "classic" seven-color rainbow was permissible under the new law.

The organization Aegis pointed out in a Telegram post that the convicted woman's earrings appear to depict a seven-striped rainbow and do not appear to represent a flag.

The convictions point to a potential broad interpretation of the law that encompasses even indirect connections to LGBT rights and symbols.

Independent Russian news outlet Mediazona reported on Jan. 19 that a resident of Saratov Oblast is being investigated for posting photographs including the rainbow flag on Instagram. The trial is set to resume next week.

Mediazona also reported that Moscow police targeted gay clubs in the city with raids shortly after the new law passed.

The Kremlin's crackdown on gay rights intensified following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with new legislation in December 2022 banning the public expression of LGBT identity in Russia.

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