Good news: Russian activist Yulia Tsvetkova is free

On 15 July, Russian activist and artist Yulia Tsvetkova was acquitted of ‘pornography’ charges for posting her body-positive illustrations of women online.

Yulia is a women’s rights and LGBTQIA+ activist who faced up to six years in prison under Russia’s oppressive ‘gay propaganda’ laws.

What happened?

In November of 2019, Russian police raided the house of 28-year-old Yulia Tsvetkova. They labelled her a ‘lesbian, sex trainer and propagandist leader.’ All for posting her own body-positive illustrations of women’s genitalia online and for showing support for LGBTQIA+ families.

Yulia was detained and placed under house arrest from December 2019 until March 2020. She was fined 50,000 rubles (AU$1280) for being the administrator of an LGBTQIA+ Facebook page and 75,000 rubles (AU$1900) for posting a drawing of a same-sex couple with children.

Yulia was charged with ‘disseminating pornography.’ In Russia, this is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. Yulia has been on trial since April 2022, but on July 15 she was acquitted of these charges.

LGBTQIA+ rights in Russia

Being a member or an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community in Russia can be dangerous. It is not uncommon for LGBTQIA+ people to face imprisonment, violence and torture at the hands of Russian authorities.

In 2013, Russian parliament backed a bill which outlawed ‘propaganda of homosexuality among minors.’ As Russian law does not define ‘homosexual propaganda’, this law can be applied arbitrarily at the discretion of the Russian government.

In Chechnya, a republic in the south of Russia, gay and lesbian people have been detained, tortured, beaten and even killed by local authorities. Since 2017, the Russian government has turned a blind eye to the horrific persecution on the lives of gay and lesbian people in Chechnya.

How did Amnesty respond?

After Yulia’s trial began in April 2021, Amnesty started a petition calling on Russian authorities to drop the charges against her. Amnesty supporters around the world took action. Over 17,000 people signed our petition and raised their voices against injustice, sparing Yulia from years in prison.

What’s next?

Everyone deserves the right to express themselves, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. Russia’s homophobic and misogynistic laws are placing innocent people in jail in a blatant violation of their human rights.

“The acquittal of Yulia Tsvetkova today marks a rare and welcome triumph of sanity and justice over remorseless repression. In a country where state-sponsored homophobia and misogyny are the norm, Tsvetkova’s trial was a landmark case.”

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

People like Yulia who stand up for their own and others’ rights don’t deserve to be imprisoned. Amnesty will continue to challenge injustice against LGBTQIA+ people and women all over the world.