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Maria Kozlovskaya

Maria Kozlovskaya is a Russian lawyer who is at the forefront of the defence of LGBT activists on trial under anti-gay 'propaganda' laws, and in the fight against the daily discrimination, harassment and violence against them.

Maria Kozlovskaya/Twitter/@fattali

In a statement published by the Russian LGBT Network regarding the impact of legislation banning "homosexual propaganda," Maria Kozlovskaya said:

Those laws banning the 'propaganda of homosexuality' adopted in 10 federated states of Russia and the project of the similar federal law in draft are all part of the…criminalization of human rights activists work.

Maria Kozlovskaya is a Russian lawyer who is at the forefront of the defence of LGBT activists on trial under anti-gay 'propaganda' laws, and in the fight against the daily discrimination, harassment and violence against them.

Prejudice against LGBT people in Russia is pervasive, with state sponsored homophobia in the media, and violence on the streets. This was exacerbated when, in 2013, a law was passed that penalises publications aimed at young people that could be construed as 'propaganda for non-traditional relationships\ - widely interpreted to refer to lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships. Organisations such as Human Rights Watch point out that not only is this law discriminatory, it also '... legitimizes anti-LGBT violence and seeks to erase LGBT people from the country's public life.' Human Rights Watch added that in the 12 months after it was promulgated, the law had been applied in only four cases. Although 'four too many', Human Rights Watch saw this as an indication that there was not the widespread 'problem' of LGBT 'propaganda' threatening young people that the law was supposed to address, but rather, that the law has little concern for children, and is a tool for discrimination.

One of these four cases was that against one of Kozlovskaya's clients, Yelena Klimova of the Deti-404 (Children 404) social network, a project that she set up in March 2013 as the anti-gay 'propaganda law' was being debated in a dangerous and hostile climate for LGBT people. Deti-404 provides a vital safe space where teenagers can discuss their problems and find support. For this, Deti-404 has been brought to trial several times under the new law for promoting 'non-traditional sexual relationships'. In 2014, one court case led to an acquittal, but another in January 2015 ended in a fine of 50,000 roubles (US$880) resulting from a complaint by a member of the Young Guard - the youth wing of the ruling United Russia party, a fine that was subsequently overruled on appeal. In April 2015, following another complaint, again from the Young Guard, a St Petersburg court ruled against Deti-404 and suggested that the state consider blocking the website, a threat that appears not to have been carried out but remains hanging over it. Klimova was fined yet again in July 2015. So the harassment goes on.

As well as acting as defence for Deti-404, Kozlovskaya has dedicated her career to defending LGBT victims of hate crimes. She is the Project Manager and Senior Lawyer at the Russian LGBT Network, an umbrella group that documents homophobic violence and discrimination, provides psychological and legal support, runs awareness raising campaigns, and has lobbied internationally including in the United Nations.

In January 2016, things threatened to get worse when another proposed anti-gay law, this time targeting "non-traditional sexual relations, manifested in a public demonstration of personal perverted sexual preferences in public places" was put before the Russian parliament. The proposed law would have provided fines and detention of up to 15 days for public displays of LGBT identity. Activists were relieved when the proposed law was rejected. But with the 2013 anti-gay 'propaganda' law still in place, a constant drip of homophobic comments from government officials, and a climate that fosters the violence and harassment against LGBT people, clearly Kozlovskaya, Klimova and other LGBT rights defenders have their work cut out for the foreseeable future.


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