Sochi 2014 Olympics Unsafe For LGBT Community Under Russia’s Anti-Gay Law, Activists Warn

Mark Johanson
International Business Times
July 4, 2013

Police detain a gay rights activist during a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, June 29, 2013. Dozens of gay and lesbian rights activists and their supporters gathered for the event but were attacked by anti-gay protesters and later dispersed by the police. Reuters.
Police detain a gay rights activist during a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, June 29, 2013. Dozens of gay and lesbian rights activists and their supporters gathered for the event but were attacked by anti-gay protesters and later dispersed by the police. Reuters.

As host of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi this coming February, Russia will open its arms to visitors from around the world — so long as they’re not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. At least, that’s what gay rights activists fear after the government passed one of the most draconian anti-gay laws on the planet this week.

RUSA LGBT, a Russian-speaking American association for members of the gay community, has called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics. It said gay athletes and spectators would not be safe in Russia after a law passed last month in Russia’s Parliament and signed earlier this week by President Vladimir Putin banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and established steep fines for anyone equating the value of same-sex relationships with those between individuals of the opposite sex. Foreigners charged with such “propaganda” could be subject to arrest, 15 days in jail, deportation and fines up to $3,000.

Travel industry website eTurboNews notes: “It is now literally illegal in Russia to say that you are gay. It is illegal to kiss your partner in public — say, after you win a gold medal. It is illegal for a gay athlete to wear the rainbow flag. Or even to acknowledge during an interview that they are gay — or for the foreign press to acknowledge it — unless they mention that gay sexual orientation in a negative way.”

In response to the new legislation, the International Olympic Committee reiterated its “long commitment to non-discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games.” The Switzerland-based body also stated, “Athletes of all sexual orientations will be welcome at the Olympic Games.” However, RUSA LGBT is not convinced.

“We want to know how they can ensure this in a country with state-sponsored homophobia backed by federal law? How can one attend the Sochi Olympics without compromising one’s integrity by supporting the economy of a country that promotes hate against the LGBT community?”

The gay rights organization said the Russian Federation had shown little regard for the freedoms of all of its citizens and instead “promoted a vicious onslaught of state-sponsored homophobic legislation to distract the public from government corruption and other social ills.”

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