A court in the Russian city of Bryansk has sentenced a local doctor named Michelle to three years in prison, a term experts say is likely to result in her death, reported Meduza. Michelle, a 53-year-old transgender woman, was convicted of “distributing pornography depicting minors,” which can carry a term of up to six years in Russia. Maria Chashchilova, an attorney for the Moscow Community Center for LGBT Initiatives (MCC), told Novaya Gazeta about the sentence on November 30.
The criminal case against Michelle was opened in 2018, about four years after she posted several erotic manga illustrations, or hentai, on the social network VKontakte. The VKontakte profile in question had been inactive for at least a year when the case began, but the charges stemming from it ultimately resulted in Michelle’s firing from the children’s hospital where she worked as an endocrinologist.
According to Radio Svoboda, which gained access to the bill of indictment against Michelle, an “expert examination” concluded that the drawings posted on VKontakte included “individuals who have not yet reached 14 years of age,” including a “12-year-old” male. The drawings themselves contained no precise indication of the age assigned to the manga characters portrayed in them. The examination in Michelle’s case was conducted by the Center for Sociocultural Expert Examinations, which has also provided support for cases against Pussy Riot and Jehovah’s Witnesses members as well as a child pornography case against a prominent Gulag historian in Petrozavodsk.
Chashchilova also explained that Michelle is likely to face violence at the hands of other inmates, especially if she is sent to a men’s prison colony. “If she can realign to present herself under a man’s name and behave like a man, then she’d have at least some chance [of surviving], at least for some time,” the attorney said. Vinnichenko agreed that “the threat stems primarily from other prisoners” even though individual prison administrators in Russia have made efforts to prevent the deaths of trans inmates in the past. Chashchilova does not yet know where Michelle will serve her sentence and has submitted a request to the local Social Monitoring Commission in an attempt to learn more about the state of the doctor’s health.