An online forum with the simple slogan ‘We Exist!’ is providing support for the 2.5 million gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths in Russia.
When President Vladimir Putin passed The Gay Propaganda Law ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he authorised LGBTQ harassment at the highest possible level and outraged a young social worker Elena Klimova. Elena risked the wrath of the Russian government by creating youth forum Children-404 (named after the error code ‘404 – Page Not Found’). Fighting for basic human rights and freedom of expression, thousands of teens flocked to the site to post letters, share injustices and discuss discrimination, sheltering their faces behind pieces of paper and hands scribbled with their stories.
In January 2014, Klimova was convicted for violating the ‘anti-gay’ law she sought to mitigate, and fined for “spreading information containing propaganda about non-traditional sexual relationships” via her documentary based on the tales of these children whose struggles are largely invisible. Around the world, screenings received standing ovations – in Russia, they were broken up by police. Elena was acquitted in March 2015, and remains undeterred as Children-404 continues to offer a lifeline for youths of non-traditional sexual orientation in demoralising times.
Elena Klimova, Founder