On April 23, Russian police were unable to shut down the premiere of the film Children-404, a documentary about the hardships LGBT teens face in Russia.
Children-404 (Russian: Ð”ÐµÑ‚Ð¸-404) is an LGBT support group on the social networking site Vkontakte, and the film contains interviews with some of its members about what their lives have been like since Russia’s controversial law against showing “gay propaganda” to minors was enacted.
Under Russian law, by definition groups for gay teenagers are nothing more than illegal propaganda. At the Moscow ArtPlay Centre, where the movie was having its first showing, the film had only been playing for about twenty minutes before police officers stormed the building. They were accompanied by a group of anti-gay activists, shouting homophobic slurs and carrying protest signs with slogans such as “Western depravity must end” and “Get sodomy out of Russia,” according to Gay Star News.
The audience was told that no one would be allowed to leave the building until everyone’s identity cards were checked, allegedly because the anti-gay activist group had told the police that some of the film attendees were underage.
A reporter for Cityboom told GSN that the police officers checked the IDs of everyone there, and questioned the people who didn’t have passports, but found that none of those present were under the age of majority. As the law only applies to expressions of gay identity where a child could potentially be exposed to same, the screening of the movie was not breaking any laws.
The founder of Children-404, Elena Klimova, who was present at the movie premiere, said that the people “who came to disrupt the show left with nothing. We watched a movie and had a discussion. That was all.”
In November 2013, a Russian teenager became the first youth to be charged under the anti-gay propaganda law. According to a report by Znak.com, the ninth grader stood up in class, angry with the new federal law, and “openly declared herself to be a person of nontraditional sexual orientation,” the local minors’ commission said.
The girl was suspended and although the incident was supposedly put on her criminal record, outlets such as Pink News have reported that she was not charged, as she had not committed sexual assault.
In early 2014, as the founder of the Children-404 page, Klimova was charged with violating the anti-propaganda law. On February 21, before her trial could begin, a district court ruled that as she was the group administrator, not the creator of its content, she was cleared of all charges. The court also affirmed that Children-404 did not feature any kind of propaganda.
Klimova’s lawyer, Maria Kozlovskaya, who is affiliated with the Russian LGBT Network, told press after the dismissal of the case that the court’s ruling “proved the incapacity and groundlessness of the so-called law about propaganda of homosexuality.”