Russian feminist artist brought to justice for distributing pornography; rights groups declare her political prisoner-World News, Firstpost

Yulia Tsvetkova ran a children’s theater and was a strong advocate for feminism and LGBT rights.

Feminist activist and artist Yulia Tsvetkova leaves after a hearing in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia, April 12, 2021. Image via AP

Moscow: A feminist artist was tried in Russia on April 12 for distributing pornography after she shared artwork depicting female bodies online. Human rights groups have linked his prosecution to the Kremlin’s conservative stance promoting “traditional family values”.

The charges against activist Yulia Tsvetkova, 27, in the far eastern town of Komsomolsk-on-Amour, have sparked international outrage. She faces up to six years in prison on charges allegedly linked to her group on the popular Russian social media network VKontakte, where stylized drawings of vaginas have been posted. Tsvetkova is not allowed to disclose details of the criminal case against her.

The hearing comes a year and a half after his first detention and eight months after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage and instruct the government to “preserve traditional family values.”

Tsvetkova’s lawyer Irina Ruchko told reporters after the hearing that she maintained her innocence and that the defense intended to prove it in court.

Tsvetkova ran a children’s theater and was a strong advocate for feminism and LGBT rights. She founded an online group called Vagina Monologues that encouraged followers to challenge the stigma and taboos surrounding the female body, and posted other people’s art there.

Last week, Amnesty International called the case, which is taking place behind closed doors, “Kafkaesque nonsense” and urged the Russian authorities to drop all charges. He said Tsvetkova was simply “expressing her opinions through art”.

Tsvetkova’s mother Anna Khodyreva echoed this sentiment in an interview with The Associated Press. “Yulia has always been against pornography … Feminists are against pornography because it is the exploitation of women’s bodies,” she said.

Tsvetkova was arrested in November 2019 and spent the next four months under house arrest. Her home was raided, along with her mother’s children’s education studio.

The activist was fined twice for breaking Russian law banning the dissemination of gay “propaganda” to minors. The court ordered Tsvetkova to pay a fine of 50,000 rubles ($ 780) in December 2019 for leading an LGBT-themed online group and of 75,000 rubles ($ 1,060) in July 2020 for a drawing in favor LGBT families. The second fine was then reduced to 50,000 rubles.

Many public figures have expressed support, including Russian state television veteran Vladimir Pozner. Activists across Russia protested his lawsuit, artists dedicated performances to him, and an online petition demanding that the charges be dropped has garnered more than 250,000 signatures.

On April 10, an exhibition of paintings by Tsvetkova opened in St. Petersburg. “The censorship snowball started to bother the art community a lot, and we realized that if we don’t stand up for Yulia, don’t stand up for her, anyone else can be next,” artist Alexei Gorbushin said. , who organized and participated in performances in support of Tsvetkova, said at the exhibition.

The European Union delegation to Russia tweeted that the bloc is “closely following” the case against Tsvetkova and that “apparently her persecution is linked to her public position as an LGBT activist”. The delegation called on the Russian authorities to stop the prosecution.

In addition to pressure from authorities over the past two years, Khodyreva says she and her daughter have received death threats and have been repeatedly harassed by strangers. The Khodyreva Children’s Education Studio has lost many clients. Tsvetkova’s children’s theater, Merak, no longer exists – the frequent visits by law enforcement agencies were too painful for the children, so it closed, Khodyreva said.

” It’s terrifying. I always look back towards the door, even now, ”Khodyreva told the PA. “The police have barged in so many times that… I’m not prepared for the children to be involved in this chaos. “

Tsvetkova’s troubles began when the children’s theater was preparing to show a play about gender stereotypes, titled The Blues and the Roses, in March 2019 during a theater festival that she organized.

The festival lost two locations it found, Khodyreva said, and police questioned the children involved in the play to find out if Tsvetkova, who ran it, told them about LGBT issues. The play had nothing to do with LGBT issues – the name referred to the colors traditionally associated with boys and girls – but in the 1990s, “blue” and “pink” in Russian were popular colloquialisms for men. and homosexual women.

According to Khodyreva, the police did not speak to the parents of the children, many of whom were supportive of her and her daughter, and the contact with the police was traumatic for the young theater students.

“We saw how badly the children felt. We saw how the boy who came up with the name of the play cried, thinking it was his fault, ”Khodyreva said, adding that another boy who was worried he had said something to the police about of his daughter cried.

Tsvetkova was summoned several times for questioning. In March 2019, the activist said she was questioned about a series of her drawings titled A woman is not a doll. Cartoon depictions of naked or half-dressed women carried captions such as “Real women have body hair – and that’s normal”, “Real women have body fat – and that’s normal”. Police claimed the images were pornographic, Tsvetkova said in an article by VKontakte.

Months later, she was arrested and charged with distributing pornography.

The prominent Russian human rights group Memorial declared Tsvetkova a political prisoner. The group said her persecution was linked to “her civic engagement and feminist views which she did not hide and promote through absolutely legal means as an activist and contemporary artist” and the story of upholding “values. traditional “which the Kremlin adopted in an offer to tighten its grip on power.

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