Woman arrested for “extremist” crime of wearing rainbow earrings in Russia
Author: Greg Owen
Reports from Russia indicate a young woman in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow, has been arrested and charged for wearing rainbow-colored earrings in violation of the country’s new law declaring the “international LGBT public movement” an extremist organization.
According to Aegis, a human rights organization in Russia, a group of aggressive individuals approached the young woman and her male companion in a local cafe after noticing the young woman’s earrings and a Ukrainian flag pin worn by the young man. The earrings were in the shape of a frog and featured a rainbow of seven colors.
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A man filming the confrontation asked the couple, “Do you know what the situation is in our country?” and tried to snatch the flag pin from the young man’s clothing. The group demanded the couple remove the offending symbols.
Following the incident, the recording appeared on social media, and the young woman was summoned for questioning by officials with the Center for Combating Extremism (CPE). CPE is a unit within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, and has harassed activists, journalists, and other opposition groups that criticize the government.
A statement from the Sormovsky District Court indicated a case opened against the young woman under Part 1 of Art. 20.3 Code of Administrative Offenses. The code is a group of Kafkaesque laws and punishment guidelines dedicated to “combating extremism” in Russia, often used against mass media and non-governmental groups.
The young woman’s lawyer said the court did not say which extremist organization’s symbol she had displayed.
“None of the interrogated employees who drew up the protocol could also name what specific symbols were demonstrated by the defendant, in what combination of signs and elements,” the lawyer told Aegis. “There was confidence that the case could be won. But the decision turned out to be unexpected. It is characteristic that Judge Umilina was in the deliberation room for more than two hours.”
The human rights organization noted the woman’s arrest came soon after the leader of a radical online hate group, called the Male State, shared video of the cafe confrontation on the group messaging app Telegram.
In November, acting on a request from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Ministry of Justice, the country’s Supreme Court declared the international gay rights movement an “extremist organization,” paving the way for increased persecution of LGBTQ+ activists throughout the country and abroad.
Putin’s anti-LGBTQ+ crusade first gained momentum in 2013 with his national ban on sharing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” with minors. The prohibition effectively criminalized Pride parades and any public displays of affection by gay people in Russia.
Soon after, Russia’s parliament passed a law sharply limiting adoption of Russian children by people from countries that allow same-sex marriage.
In 2022, the Duma expanded the propaganda ban “protecting children” to include all ages, criminalizing “any action or the spreading of any information that is considered an attempt to promote homosexuality in public, online, or in films, books or advertising.”
Russia has since used its extremism law to persecute critics and activists both domestically and abroad.
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Author: Greg Owen