By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com January 31 2014 3:26 PM ET
A Russian journalist has been accused of violating the country's ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors for a social media group she established that supports and shares stories from LGBT teens.
Lena Kilmova was issued an "infringement notice" that she was in violation of the nationwide ban after a lawmaker who sponsored that legislation filed a complaint against her, according to RIA Novosti, a news agency backed by the Russian government.
Vitaly Milonov, who cosponsored the St. Petersburg ban on so-called gay propaganda that helped inspire the similar nationwide ban enacted last June, confirmed to RIA Novosti that he filed a request to investigate Kilmova for her establishment of a group called "Children-404" on Russian social networking site Vkontakte and on Facebook. Milonov contends that the group prompts otherwise straight children to question their sexuality.
"Without such groups, no kids like that would exist," Milonov told RIA Novosti, which also notes the St. Petersburg lawmaker has campaigned against MTV, modern operas, abortion and teaching evolution in schools.
Children-404, which gets its name from the internet protocol code when a webpage cannot be found, shares first-person stories from LGBT teenagers, which the page calls "the invisible victims of homophobia." Since its founding in March 2013, the page has published more than 1,000 letters from LGBT teenagers, according to the St. Petersburg-based Straight Alliance of LGBT Equality, which partners with Children-404.
The formal charges against Kilmova claim she "had registered a web page propagandizing non-traditional sexual relations among minors, which took form of distribution of information among minors aimed at forming of non-traditional sexual affirmations, attraction to non-traditional sexual relations, distorted conceptions of social equality of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations," according to the Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality.
"In light of general trends in the country, I am not surprised," said Kilmova in a statement from the Straight Alliance. "But it is very sad that letters from LGBT teenagers themselves are called 'homosexual propaganda among minors.' It is absurd! Milonov, the complaint initiator, has two demands: to fine me and to close the group. If it will be closed, LGBT teenagers will lose the only place where they can openly speak about themselves and receive advice they need to live. It will be a catastrophe."
If found guilty of violating the law after she appears in court sometime in the next 30 days, Kilmova could be fined up to 10,000 rubles ($2,800 USD) and be forced to close the page. RIA Novosti reports that the charges against Kilmova represent the fifth time the "gay propaganda" ban has been enforced, noting that the editor in chief of a local newspaper in the eastern region of Khabarovsk was fined 50,000 rubles ($1,400 USD) earlier this week after the paper published a story last year about a local geography teacher who says he was fired for being gay.