Russian activist arrested for ‘vulva ballet’ street performance in support of persecuted queer artist Yulia Tsvetkova

Yulia Tsvetkova

A Russian activist was arrested and fined after taking part in a “vulva ballet” street performance in support of persecuted queer artist Yulia Tsvetkova.

Russian LGBT+ activist and artist Yulia Tsvetkova has faced “gay propaganda” charges three times in less than a year.

Vladimir Putin and his government banned so-called “gay propaganda” in 2013, prohibiting the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors”. Under his rule, sharing information about LGBT+ people’s lives can earn a person a prison sentence.

In November, 2019, Tsvetkova was placed under house arrest and charged with distributing “gay propaganda” for running a social media page called Vagina Monologues, which encouraged people to share artistic depictions of vaginas in order to “remove the taboo”.

A month later she was charged again with distributing “gay propaganda” after posting on the Russian social media site VKontakte about intersectional feminism, and in July this year she faced the same charges yet again posting a picture of happy queer families.

This week, Red Cross worker and St Petersburg activist Daria Apakhonchich was arrested for taking part in a “vulva ballet” street performance in support of Tsvetkova.

According to Meduza, the vulva ballet took place near St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater, during which performers danced while holding cardboard vulvas decorated with the words: “I am, and you?”, “My vulva is my vulva”, and, “You have pornography between your ears.”

On 4 August, Apakhonchich was arrested and taken immediately to court. She was charged with violating regulations on holding rallies, and fined 10,000 rubles (£103).

The activist later wrote on Facebook: “We will appeal the fines, of course, and I think we will also file a complaint against police officers for unlawful arrest.”

She added: “I’m upset that I have to constantly be ready for violence from all directions… I categorically don’t like that, in this world, I constantly have to prove I have the right to voice my opinion.”

Apakhonchich said that her activism, and her support for Yulia Tsvetkova, “is a very important part of [her] life”.

She continued: “I cannot help doing what I do… It is my freedom, my fight for the safety of all women, and my contribution to my children’s future.

“I am really, really worried that my daughter is growing up in an unsafe world, that my son is growing up in an unsafe world, that society imposes places on them in the hierarchical meat grinder.

“I am still going to be involved in activism: I cannot do it any other way.”