A feminist blogger in Russia faces five years in prison under a charge of “inciting hatred” with insults against men, in the latest in a spate of cases that human rights groups call an “assault” on free speech.
Lyubov Kalugina, who describes herself as a “radical feminist of a separatist breed,” is being prosecuted under an “anti-extremism” law that bans “incitement of national, racial or religious enmity.” The law was notoriously used to prosecute feminist punk protesters Pussy Riot, and last year, a 22-year-old blogger received a two-year suspended sentence under the rule for playing Pokemon Go in a church.
Kalugina, a Kazakh blogger based in the Siberian city of Omsk, says the investigation was spurred by an anonymous resident of the city of Birobidzhan complaining that 12 of her social media posts insulted “the ‘male’ social group,” she told Russian media.
She says investigators showed her screenshots of the offending passages, which include a meme of a woman with a frying pan, captioned “Beat up a brute, save Russia!” Kalugina says that 90% of the screenshots are either jokes or arguments between feminists. “I didn’t think you’re not even allowed to make jokes,” she told the website MediaZona.”It’s completely absurd to equate little jokes—even silly ones—to calls that actually lead people to go and kill other people.”
The respected anti-extremism watchdog SOVA Center said that some of her posts could be seen as calls for violence towards men, but that they pose little societal danger, since “there’s no tradition of real violence” among feminist groups. It writes that there’s no need to criminally prosecute Kalugina, but that demanding that she delete the “aggressive content” could be “quite appropriate.”