Two Russian courts have handed out the first convictions associated with the government’s “international LGBT social movement” after it was labelled as “extremist” last year.
In a court ruling on Thursday, a man in the southern region of Volgograd was found guilty of “displaying the symbols of an extremist organisation” after sharing a photo of an LGBT flag online, as reported by the court’s press service.
Artyom P was fined 1,000 rubles, and admitted his guilt during the proceedings, explaining that he posted the image “out of stupidity,” according to the court’s statement.
Another conviction was handed to a woman in Nizhny Novgorod who was sentenced to five days of administrative detention by a local court on January 29.
Her alleged crime was wearing frog-shaped earrings which depicted images of the rainbow.
The incident was brought to light by LGBT rights group Aegis, which reported that a man confronted the woman, demanding the removal of her earrings.
The encounter was filmed, and the video was subsequently posted online.
In a Telegram post, Aegis emphasised that the earrings worn by the woman seemed to feature a seven-striped rainbow design, without representing a specific flag.
In November last year, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ activists should be designated as “extremists” and issued a “ban on its activities on the territory of Russia”.
The proceedings occurred behind closed doors, with no defence present, according to Russian media reports prior to the verdict. Journalists were permitted entry solely to observe the announcement of the decision.
The head of the Russian LGBT Network Igor Kochetkov denounced the ruling, emphasising, “Even though there is no such thing as an international LGBT movement, it is clear that all legal activities of LGBT organisations will be impossible in Russia”.
The director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International criticised the Supreme Court of Russia’s verdict for criminalising any public LGBTQ+ activity, stating, “This shameful and absurd decision represents a new front in the Russian authorities’ campaign against the LGBTI community. The ruling risks resulting in a blanket ban on LGBTI organizations with far-reaching violations of the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to be free from discrimination. It will affect countless people, and its repercussions are poised to be nothing short of catastrophic”.
These convictions indicate a potentially expansive interpretation of the law, encompassing even indirect associations with LGBT rights and symbols and add to growing concerns surrounding the restrictions on personal expression in the country.