NIZHNY TAGIL, Russia — A freelance Russia journalist was charged Friday for violating the country’s anti-gay propaganda law for creating a online LGBT teen support group on Russian social media website VKontakte (vk.com).
Elena Klimova, the founder and administrator of the vk.com group “Children 404,” was initially questioned by Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs investigators on Jan. 17, after a complaint was filed by Vitaly Milonov, an anti-gay St. Petersburg lawmaker.
The name of her group is a play on the Internet universal protocol “Error 404, Page Not Found,” inferring that LGBT Russian youth are unable to be visible. (Klimova maintains a “Children 404” page on Facebook as well.)
A spokesperson for the Russian Interior Ministry Friday evening confirmed that Klimova was charged after creating the group “that promotes non-traditional sexual relations among minors, expressed in the dissemination of information aimed at developing non-traditional sexual concepts in minors, attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relationships, distorted notions of social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations.”
According to the Interior Ministry spokesperson, its investigator found the VK page it to be a violation of the federal law which prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” also referred to as the anti-gay propaganda law.
In an e-mail statement, Klimova said she is “not surprised” by the charges, “in light of general trends in the country.”
“But it is very sad that letters from LGBT teenagers themselves are called ‘homosexual propaganda among minors,'” she wrote. “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.”
Klimova established the online community in March of 2013. She said the project was created after she published an article about LGBT teenagers’ problems and began receiving messages from teen teenagers on her personal VK page.
On the “Children 404” page, LGBT teens share personal stories, and converse about their problems. Often, they write about about bullying by peers and misunderstanding by parents. To date, more than one thousand letters have been published.
“At least every third LGBT teenager in Russia thought about suicide, and at least every fifth tried to commit suicide at least once,” said Klimova. “As reason for suicidal thoughts, teenagers name internal homophobia, physical and psychological abuse (including outing) from relatives and acquaintances.”
“Most often suicidal thoughts arise if a teenager is lonely and has nobody to talk to and to trust. On the contrary, those with reliable friends or accepting parents almost never think about suicide,” she said.
Although the case was investigated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Criminal Investigation Department, Russian officials told LGBTQ Nation that an administrative offense versus a criminal complaint was charged.
Officials added that Klimova will be scheduled to be in court for a hearing on the matter within the next 30 days.