27-year-old artist faces trial in Russia after posting cartoonish drawings that promote tolerant view of the female body

Feminist artist and LGBTQ + activist Yulia Tsvetkova is on trial in Russia, charged with distributing pornography based on her work of a naked female body.

The 27-year-old, who was arrested in November 2019 and remained under house arrest in Komsomolsk-on-Amur until March 16, faces up to six years in prison if convicted of having illegally produced and distributed pornographic material on the Internet.

“His persecution comes against the backdrop of a government campaign to ‘protect traditional values’, used, among other things, to secure the regime’s grip on political power in Russia,” writes the Coalition to free political prisoners from the Kremlin. “Art material in Tsvetkova’s case cannot be recognized as pornographic. They do not incite sexual desire, are not naturalistic and have a specific artistic and ideological value.

Tsvetkova, who opened an exhibition of her work in St. Petersburg this weekend, claims her innocence. She was previously convicted of “propaganda of non-traditional sex between minors” in December 2019 and July 2020, and fined 50,000 rubles ($ 780) both times.

Family is where love is. Courtesy of the artist. “width =” 700 “height =” 394 “srcset =” https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/04/Yulia-Tsvetkova..jpg 700w, https: //news.artnet. com / app / news-upload / 2021/04 / Yulia-Tsvetkova.-300×169.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/04/Yulia-Tsvetkova.-50×28.jpg 50w “sizes =” (max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px “/>

Yulia Tsvetkova, Family is where love is. Courtesy of the artist.

His drawing Family is where love is, of two same-sex couples with children, was tried in violation of Russia’s 2013 law on “gay propaganda” which is supposed to “protect children from information that denies traditional family values”. The government canceled a youth festival organized by Tsvetkova on the same grounds in March 2019.

The pornography case against Tsvetkova stems from her roles as the founder of the Vagina monologues, a body-positive feminist online community that “is dedicated to removing stigma from the vagina” through images and texts celebrating “the beauty, strength and uniqueness of the female body,” as the group describes.

“Yulia has always been against pornography,” Tsvetkova’s mother Anna Khodyreva said. Associated press. “Feminists are against pornography because it is the exploitation of women’s bodies.

The drawings of Yulia Tsvetkova, with captions like

The drawings by Yulia Tsvetkova, with captions like “Real women have body fat and this is normal” and “Real women have wrinkles and gray hair and this is normal”. Courtesy of the artist.

Amnesty International possesses critical the Russian state for advancing the proceedings against Tsvetkova and for denying access to the proceedings to both the public and the press, a decision taken on the grounds that “pornographic material” will be examined during the trial.

A group of human rights activists also wrote an open letter to the Russian Attorney General in March, calling on him to drop the charges against Tsvetkova.

A solidarity march calling for the release of Russian feminist artist Yulia Tsvetkova.  Photo courtesy of Free Yulia Tsvetkova.

A solidarity march calling for the release of Russian feminist artist Yulia Tsvetkova. Photo courtesy of Free Yulia Tsvetkova.

“Works of art depicting female anatomy with the clearly defined purpose of celebrating the beauty of female anatomy are not and should not be considered pornographic under Russian law,” the letter states. “The prosecution is also a violation of the right to freedom of expression, which includes artistic expression, as protected by international law and explicitly by treaties to which Russia is a party.

Tsvetkova’s case also inspired a Change.org petition with more than 250,000 signatures, a petition of 150 artists who exhibited in Russia, and solidarity marches organized in Berlin, London and Russia. Last June, 40 demonstrators were arrested during protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg in favor of Tsvetkova.

the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam acquired a selection of works by the artist in November. Tsvetkova was also nominated on 2020 Censorship index Freedom of Expression Award Art Researcher.

“For a year, I have heard that my work means nothing. That women don’t need rights, that body positivity is pornography that corrupts children and ruins their lives, that I should go to jail, ”Tsvetkova said in her acceptance speech. “The award pretty much reminds me that… there are still people who believe that [what I do] is important.”

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