On August 7th, Maxim Neverov, a 16-year-old student from Biysk, Russia, was summoned to the police station, where he was arrested and charged with violating Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. Neverov is reportedly the first minor to be charged since the law’s passing in 2013, but thousands of adults have been caught and fined by it.
Before you assume any predatory behavior on Neverov’s part, or indeed on the part of any other victim of this law, the “promoting homosexuality” that he committed was to save a few pro-gay photos to an album on Vkontakte, a Russian social media platform. The pictures weren’t explicit, merely showing clothed men hugging and a rainbow flag. One had mild profanity. For this, Neverov was sentenced with a fine of 50,000 rubles, a sum nearly double the average monthly salary in his city.
Since 2013, the law against so-called gay propaganda has been used to prevent pride parades, support groups, and to detain LGBTQ activists. In July, for instance, 25 gay rights activities were arrested at a rally in St. Petersburg. It has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.
“By adopting such laws, the authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values of a democratic society,” said the court in a statement this June, after ruling that Russia was violating its people’s rights to freedom of expression. Russia has not indicated it will respect their ruling, as it has ignored 222 of the 228 judgments the court has made on Russian human rights cases.
Neverov doesn’t believe the charges were actually to do with the images he saved or shared. In May, he tried to organize a pro-gay public performance. His application for the performance was rejected, but he says that the authorities published his information on the Internet immediately afterwards.
With the help of human rights group The Russian LGBT Network, Neverov and his lawyer, Artem Lapov, plan to appeal the ruling and challenge the law.