Sochi 2014: Pride vs. Putin
by andreannebou on April 19, 2016 - 7:44pm
2014, Russia. The city of Sochi gets ready for the Winter Olympics that will take place within its walls. These Olympic Games raise debate since they are the most expensive in history (Gibson “Sochi 2014”). However, the outrageous price of the Sochi Olympics is not the only controversy surrounding the events. All around the world, gay rights activists protest against the new Russian law that bans the “promotion of ‘non-traditional’ sexuality” (“Sochi 2014”). Athletes and supporters from many countries denounce what they consider an unacceptable form of discrimination.
The conflict started in 2012, when a Russian judge refused the creation of a Pride House in Sochi. She argued that this principle “contradict[s] the basics of public morality and the policy of the state in the area of family motherhood and childhood protection” (Gold). One year later, in June 2013, Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a law banning gay “propaganda” among minors. The law “makes it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, as well as the distribution of material on gay rights” (Elder). Concerning the Olympic Games, President Vladimir Putin claimed that homosexual athletes were welcome in Sochi. “Just leave the children in peace”, he said (“Sochi 2014”). Behind this law, there is a whole history of discrimination against homosexuality in Russia. In fact, same-sex sexual activity was considered a criminal act until 1993 and classified as a mental illness until 1999 (Porter). Moreover, in Russia, there are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination regarding sexual orientation or gender identity (“LGBT rights in Russia”). This conservative worldview is partly the result of a strong influence from the conservative Russian Orthodox Church, which has a very prohibitive view of sexuality (Kon 14). Even though Russia has always been “socially conservative” concerning homosexuality (“LGBT rights in Russia”), it is believed that under the presidency of Vladimir Putin, violence and hateful attitudes towards homosexuals have increased (Porter). On the other hand, the worldview of the LGBT community is completely opposite to that of Russia. The LGBT community believes in tolerance, solidarity, acceptation, and strongly opposes stereotypes. Moreover, LGBT athletes and supporters had argued that the new anti “gay propaganda” law did not respect the spirit of the Olympic Games. In fact, discrimination is explicitly condemned in two fundamental principles expressed in the Olympic Charter:
“4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” (13)
“6. The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, […].” (14)
According to the LGBT community, the Russian law is not in accordance with those clauses of the Olympic Charter. Above all, the restrictions imposed by the government did not respect their freedom of expression, which is a fundamental human right. The LGBT community did not feel welcome in the Games. In the context of an international event, is it morally acceptable for the host country to impose restrictions to its guests according to its own culture or religious tradition? When one, for instance, immigrates to a new country, he is often forced to adopt the cultural traditions of its host’s land. Should it be different in the context of an international event?
In conclusion, even if Russia does not punish homosexuality anymore, there is still a lot of discrimination in the country. Moreover, if Vladimir Putin stays at the head of the country, the conservative views of his government will most likely make LGBT rights stagnate. The debate surrounding the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi is an obvious example of Russia’s unfavorable look towards homosexuality. However, such conflicts should not happen again. Following the controversy of Sochi, the International Olympic Committee plans to add an anti-discrimination clause to the contract of the Games’ host city (Gibson “Olympic anti-discrimination clause introduced”). This means that some countries will probably have to remove their names from the bidding list…
Elder, Miriam. “Russia passes law banning gay ‘propaganda’.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 11 June 2013. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
Gibson, Owen. “Olympic anti-discrimination clause introduced after Sochi gay rights row.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 25 Sep. 2014. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
---. “Sochi 2014: the costliest Olympics yet but where has all the money gone?” The Guardian. The Guardian, 19 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
Gold, David. “Judge bans Sochi 2014 gay Pride House claiming that it would offend ‘public morality’.” Inside the Games. Dunsar Media Company Limited, 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
International Olympic Committee. Olympic Charter. Lausanne: International Olympic Committee, 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
Kon, Igor S. The Sexual Revolution in Russia: From the Age of the Czars to Today. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Google Books. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
“LGBT rights in Russia.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
Porter, Tom. “LGBT rights in Russia: Majority of Russians want to ‘liquidise’ or ostracise homosexuals.” International Business Times. IB Times Co., 12 Oct. 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
“Sochi 2014: Gay rights protests target Russia’s games.” BBC News. BBC, 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.