In its latest attack on sexual minorities, the Russian government has formally accused Lena Klimova of "illegal gay propaganda." Klimova is the founder of Children 404, an online support network for LGBT teens, who has come under fire for a series of articles she wrote in 2013 defending sexual minorities against the increasing persecution they face in Russia.
According to the Children 404 mission statement, "Our society believes that gay teenagers do not exist in nature, as if gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people arrive from Mars as adults. Meanwhile, one family in twenty has an LGBT-child in it, and those children are society’s invisible "Children-404" (404 refers to the Internet error message for "Page not found."). Their online network is modelled after the "It Gets Better" campaign in the United States and attempts to provide LGBT youths with an online community to keep them from feeling alone. Along with open pages on Facebook and the Russian social network VContacte, the project also has a "closed" page to provide LGBT teens with counseling.
According to Klimova, police visited her home last week and asked her to come to Moscow to face charges. Since she lives more than one thousand miles away, she has attempted to have the charges moved closer to her home but this has been denied. Writing on LiveJournal, she has been providing ongoing coverage of the case against her and her group.
Among the highlights (translated into English) are:
The materials [on Children-404] can cause children to believe that being gay means being a person who is brave, strong, confident, tenacious, and someone with a sense of dignity and self-respect.
This community contains almost no information about the fact that this [sexual] orientation is untraditional according to the norms, customs, and practices of the Russian Federation.
Facebook comments left by Russian censors also argue that Children 404 endangers LGBT minors because of "amateur psychological support." Another anti-gay politician stated that "Children-404 is a semi-criminal clique... such projects should not be allowed in Russia... they seduce young people and bring them round to the mistaken view that homosexuality is acceptable and not a sin."
Despite the popularity of anti-gay legislation in Russia, some journalists have spoken out in favour of Children 404 and Lena Klimova. In writing about Children 404, Russian journalist Valery Panyushkin wrote:
"To be honest I had not thought about those children. I had not realised that the new law would kill them. But Lena Klimova, a journalist with the "Rosbalt" agency, has realised. She has conducted a survey among these children, gathered several hundred letters, and it is impressive reading... Deputies, Senators, Mr. President and anyone else involved in the adoption of the law on the "promotion of homosexuality"! You are killing children. Henceforth, all the boys who have been beaten up behind the garages, and all the girls who have jumped out of windows, holding hands together, will be on your conscience"
At this time, it remains unclear whether the Russian government will ban Children 404 completely. The fate of Lena Klimova is still very much up in the air.