More disturbing news from Russia: the Putin government has ordered teachers in St. Petersberg to monitor and identify queer students via social media accounts. The government has also demanded all the personal information of said students be turned over to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for punishment.
The Russian activist organization LGBT Network released a statement this week following the acquisition of emails to teachers from government agencies. In the emails, teachers are ordered to assess the social media accounts of their students and draw up dossiers, noting if any pro-queer language or symbols such as the Pride Flag appear on their pages. Instructors then must turn the personal details–including names, addresses, and descriptions of each student–over to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for processing.
The Putin administration justifies this kind of “monitoring” of students, aged 10-17, as a means of identifying “minors against whom illegal acts have been committed, or who have committed an offense or antisocial acts.”
“It turns out that the administration considers only the fact of placing the rainbow flag by schoolchildren as an offense or antisocial act that should be punished. This is simply unacceptable,” said Svetlana Zakharova, a member of the Russian LGBT Network.
Besides being creepy and invasive, this kind of monitoring of children also violates Russian law.
“This is the second documented case when the administration of an educational institution takes over the functions of the morality police and monitors students’ social networks for ‘propaganda,'” Alexander Belik, a lawyer for the LGBT Network added. “In September last year, the rector of [Ural State University of Economics] confirmed that the university administration is monitoring students’ pages in social networks. Such monitoring is illegal. Educational organizations do not have the authority to collect materials on cases of administrative offenses, and teachers in their job descriptions do not have a duty to monitor social networks.”
The surveillance of underage students by teachers is just the latest in a series of attacks on the Russian queer community by the Putin government. Though homosexual activity is technically legal, queer people often become the subject of violence or harassment by police or the general public. Discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing and employment remain legal. Under the aforementioned anti-gay propaganda law, anyone who vocalizes or shows support for LGBTQ people can be subject to a government penalty. The Russian nation-state of Chechnya has also instituted “gay purges,” in which anyone suspected of being gay or of even knowing an LGBTQ person can be the target of vigilante groups or sent to a concentration camp for torture.