A Russian court will soon decide whether posts that Evdokia Romanova, a Russian activist, made on social media back in 2015 amount to “gay propaganda” – a charge that could result in a fine for the accused and a further blow to freedom of expression in Russia.
If the court convicts Romanova, it would be at least the seventh conviction under Russia’s 2013 federal “gay propaganda” law that effectively prohibits any positive information about “non-traditional sexual relations” from public discussion.
Romanova is accused of sharing information on Facebook about the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, an international group that advocates for young people’s access to accurate information about health and sexuality. The group believes that information and education are vital for safeguarding the life, health, and well-being of young people.
The purported rationale behind Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban is that portraying same-sex relations as socially acceptable and of equal value to heterosexual relations supposedly threatens the intellectual, moral, and mental well-being of children. In other words, the law perpetuates the lie that being gay or lesbian poses a danger to children.
While supporters of the law claim it protects children, the ban in fact directly harms them by denying them access to essential information and perpetuating stigma against LGBT children and family members. The law has rightly been condemned by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe , and the Council of Europe.
Romanova’s case clearly shows that Russia’s “gay propaganda” law is just a flimsy excuse to discriminate against LGBT people. Factual, positive, and affirming information about sexuality and health is essential for all children. For LGBT children who frequently feel isolated and vulnerable, this information can be life-saving.