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Pussy Riot Moms Released from Prison Following New Russian Amnesty Law

Soutien_aux_Pussy_RiotImagine this scenario: You are a mother to a young child, and you happen to be a political activist, in a band whose music speaks out against injustices in your home country. Your band makes the decision to hold an impromptu concert in an unconventional place. Next thing you know, your life is completely turned upside down. You are arrested and sentenced to two years in prison and taken away from your friends, your family and, worst of all, your children. A nightmare, right? But that’s just what happened to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of the Russian band Pussy Riot.

Pussy Riot is a band that does not shy away from controversy, rather they welcome it and dive head first into creating a scene and igniting debate. The Moscow based band — which was formed in 2011 — is comprised of about eleven members who perform wearing ski masks and tackle such topics such as feminism, LGBT rights, and criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The women choose to keep their identities anonymous, which was a wise move since they were singing about such controversial subjects in a country that is becoming more and more conservative.

Back in 2012 the Riot Grrrl-ish group played an anti-Putin protest concert at a Russian Orthodox cathedral, and a few members of the band were taken into custody and found guilty of hooliganism. Yes, hooliganism. On Wednesday there seemed to be a good chance, according to CNN,  that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina would be released earlier than expected after lawmakers in Russia backed an amnesty law on Wednesday. And their release hinged on one fact: they would be set free because they are mothers.

The amnesty  — which was passed by the State Duma (the lower house of parliament) unanimously — would allow some who are imprisoned, under certain circumstances, to be released. Bloomberg News  states that, “the amnesty targets prisoner categories such as pregnant women or young mothers, invalids, men over 60 or convicts aged 16-18 serving up to five years.”

Both Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina fall under the “young mother” category. The other high profile potential lawbreakers who would benefit from the amnesty include “28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists from 18 countries, who face as long as seven years in prison for the protest targeting OAO Gazprom (GAZP)‘s Arctic offshore oil platform, were set free on bail last month by courts in St. Petersburg.”

On top of this potential amnesty, the top court in Russia met and ruled that the mothers should have been able to defer their sentences in the first place since they had young children at home. And on Thursday, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were freed from their cells. President Vladimir Putin, in a press conference, did not show any remorse for jailing the women. “I was not sorry that they ended up behind bars,” he said. “I was sorry that they were engaged in such disgraceful behaviour, which in my view was degrading to the dignity of women.”

One has to wonder if these women, had they known the consequences of their actions, would have still performed at that church that fateful day. Would they sacrifice the time they lost with their children knowing what they know now? Or are their beliefs strong enough to justify the time lost?

A band member, who was not caught and remains in hiding, said that she does not have any regrets. “I’m here to say you shouldn’t give up. What happened to us is unacceptable,” a Pussy Riot member known only as “Kot” said to CBS’s 60 Minutes. “Just because there was a court case doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop and shut our mouths. We have a lot of things to say. We’re going to continue to work, continue to do what we do.”

The women of Pussy Riot knew what they were doing, and must have known that they risked arrest and prosecution for their outspoken actions. They were willing to put themselves out there in order to have their message heard, risking their freedom to do so. But I imagine that they probably did not anticipate getting sentenced to two years in prison. As a mother, I could not take that chance. I would not choose to sacrifice my job as a mother for a political cause. That being said, however, we are all indebted to those who do have the guts to speak out, regardless of the affect it will have on their lives and their children’s lives. And with having young children at home, this just makes their sacrifice even greater.

Do you think there should be more laws about mothers of young children, who have done petty crimes, to have freedom while their kids are so young? Or do you think being mothers should not play into their sentencing? And would you risk your freedom for a topic you believe in?

 

Photo Source: Wiki Commons/ Staff Beebees

 

 

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