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07 Apr 2017

Russia bans "gay clown" memes of President Putin

Russia bans "gay clown" memes of Putin

With a recent ruling by Moscow's Justice Ministry, it is now illegal to portray President Vladimir Putin in makeup, or otherwise implying he is gay.

It is now one among several in a registry of "extremist materials", which also includes anti-Semitic and racist pictures and slogans.

Offenders could be sentenced to 15 days in prison or fined 3,000 roubles ($15).

In context

Russia bans "gay clown" memes of Putin
Activists use Putin's image to protest anti-gay laws


Activists use Putin's image to protest anti-gay laws

Images of Putin in eye shadow and with rouged cheeks, often referred to as the "gay clown" memes, have been available online since 2011, but circulation shot up since 2013.

Activists use the images to protest Russia's "gay propaganda law".

The matter first came under legal purview in 2016 in the city of Tver, northwest of Moscow.

Russia's "gay propaganda law"

The law describes homosexuality as "non-traditional sexual relations" and prohibits bars public discussions on gay rights at any place where children might overhear.

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Legal proceedings

Legal repercussions

Alexander Tsvetkov, who shared several such images on social media, was charged with incitement of hatred or enmity. Pictures also included some on immigrants and soldiers in Nazi gear.

The court observed that according to Tsvetkov, the images imply "an allegedly non-standard sexual orientation" of Putin.

Though he was convicted, he wasn't fined or sentenced to prison, but committed to a psychiatric institution.

The Chechnya killings

The ruling came in the backdrop of reports that authorities in Chechnya had kidnapped and tortured over 100 gay people and killed at least three. Though the government denied, Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director at Human Rights Watch, said she had received information on detentions.


Russia's mixed messages

Though it has adopted a strict stance against "non-traditional" sexualities, the Kremlin's international TV channel, RT, screened TransReality, a documentary series on gay and transgender Russians.

However, it kept away from commenting on the recent wave of homophobia that grew since a 2013 law.

Meanwhile, a documentary called "Sodom" telecast by the official Rossiya 1 channel described homosexuals as "perverts" and "sodomites".

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