By Daniel Reynolds
An LGBT rights activist in Russia has been charged with “gay propaganda” for sharing articles on Facebook.
Evdokia Romanova — a staffer at the Samara Regional Public LGBT Movement, a.k.a. Avers — was charged July 26 with violating the Russian law, which prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors” but has been historically applied to real-world demonstrations.
According to Amnesty International, Romanova will stand trial Monday. If convicted, she may be fined up to 100,000 rubles, or $1,750.
Romanova shared links from the International Youth Coalition for Sexual Reproductive Rights — as well as articles on LGBT rights from The Guardian and BuzzFeed — on Facebook and the Russian social network VKontakte. Prosecutors cited to these social media posts as evidence of her guilt.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Romanova called the charges “shocking.” She speculated that her human rights work may have made her a target, as her city, Samara, has a “high level of homophobia.”
“I am not even sure [the] people who have charged me understood the content of the posts I’ve shared,” said Romanova, who believed the articles were read via Google Translate.
Sarah Hedges-Chou, the Youth Coalition’a interim executive coordinator, condemned the charges.
“The Youth Coalition firmly stands behind Evdokia,” Hedges-Chou told BuzzFeed. “In sharing these articles and publications she was exercising her right to freedom of expression and did not break any laws.”
“Further, these charges are clearly an attempt to silence and intimidate a human rights defender and others speaking out against the persecution faced by the LGBT community in Russia,” she added. “We urge the Russian authorities to drop all charges against her.”
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in June that Russia’s “gay propaganda” law — a series of regulations limiting the visibility of LGBT people — is discriminatory. The nation has codified anti-LGBT discrimination in recent years, in order to differentiate itself from Western nations, which it disparagingly refers to as “Gayropa.”
Human rights groups have also criticized President Vladimir Putin for a lack of action related to reports that gay and bisexual men are being killed in concentration camps in Chechnya, a Russian-controlled republic.