Russian gay rights abuses challenged before Sochi Olympics

The upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia has brought to light a number of human rights abuses and safety concerns in the country. At the forefront of these concerns is the issue of Russia’s strong stance against gay rights in recent years, specifically in the form of an “anti-propoganda” law passed over the summer, which prohibits statements about “non-traditional sexual relations” in order to “protect children.”

A new report from Human Rights Watch suggests that abuse against gays in Russia is on the rise. HRW even has a disturbing video to prove it. Yet the Olympics will go on. So what is being done to support human rights in Russia?

Many LGBT rights activists are planning to boycott the Games in response to these violations, as is detailed in this NBC News article. Activists will hold events around the world and utilize social media campaigns to spread their message, which is essentially that gays and lesbians are being oppressed in Russia and the world should pay attention. And much of the world has noticed. For instance, the U.S. delegation attending the Olympics includes two openly gay athletes, tennis star Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow.

Gay Activitists in Russia
Gay activists in Moscow hold sign that translates to: “Homophobia: the religion of bullies.” (AP/Evgeny Feldman)

According to London’s Metro, a number of groups are planning protests during the Games: “…rights groups Athlete Ally and All Out, whose Principle 6 Campaign aims to draw attention to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism laid out by the International Olympics Committee (IOC), in particular Principle 6, which says: ‘Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.’” Some athletes say they plan to wear P6 symbols on their uniforms, as a reference to Principle 6.

What about the safety of gay fans and athletes at the Olympics? Last month, Putin said in response to this question, “One can feel calm and at ease. Just leave kids alone, please.” Not very reassuring.

Should the Olympics have been postponed and moved to show that this sort of discrimination will not be tolerated? One way or another, the Olympics Games have placed a spotlight on Russia, and it won’t be vanishing into the shadows anytime soon.


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