Russia’s “Anti-LGBT Law” Wins Gold in Olympics of Discrimination
by GLapierre on September 13, 2013 - 11:48pm
The article Why Russia's Sochi Olympics are now a battleground for gay rights, posted by CNN on August 10th, 2013, describes and explains the controversy that has emerged following the adoption by the Russian parliament of what is considered to be an “anti-gay” law. The law in question, signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin and brought under the spotlights in the perspective of the forthcoming 2014 Sochi Olympics, prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”. In other terms, as the article quite efficiently sums it up, the law “bans the public discussion of gay rights anywhere children might hear it” – that is, pretty much everywhere or, at least, in all public places.
Boris Dittich, leading figure of Human Rights Watch’s fight for LGBT rights, points out at religion, ignorance and political opportunism as major causes of this issue. In a first time, he argues that a huge part of responsibilities in the LGBT struggles comes down to the Russian Orthodox Church, who not only preaches extremely conservative, traditional values – thus, ideas that are certainly not favorable to the LGBT –, but also relays false information about them. It should be noted that the Church is very close to the power in place; therefore, it has a strong influence over the politics of the country… Which, coincidentally, also tend to reflect a highly conservative approach. In brief, Dittich then explains that most of the Russian population doesn’t know much about the LGBT, for that they only represent a small minority of it. Hence, politicians take advantage of this ignorance and/or of these false images conveyed by the Church, and use the easy the LGBT as scapegoats, adopting hardline policies against them. In other words, homophobia is a powerful political tool for Russian leaders.
Six months ahead of the Sochi Olympics, the adoption of the law raised worldwide concerns from groups and individuals – may they be athletes, politicians, human rights activists, etc. Gay defense groups unanimously condemned the legislation as a clear violation of their rights, while Amnesty International claimed that it was an “affront to freedom of expression”. American president Barrack Obama, on its side, said that “nobody was more offended than him” by this anti-gay legislation. Meanwhile, 320,000 people signed a petition launched by the gay rights group All Out, calling for a recall of the law…
So far, other forms of early protests resulted in bars ignoring Russian vodka, but then and still now, appeals are being launched all over the planet for not only a boycott, but a cancellation of the Games… A scenario that the International Olympic Committee has dismissed.
Personally, I find it a real shame that a developed country such as Russia can’t treat its citizens in the greatest fairness and equality, even more in the perspective of it hosting the Olympic Games, whose charter, by the way, is unequivocal, stating that “sport is a human right and it should be available to all, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation […]”. Not only do I find it shameful, I also consider their homophobic policies as clearly retrograde ways of thinking. However, even if a boycott/cancellation of the Games seems unlikely, I believe that, at very least, having this LGBT rights controversy under the spotlight will help (if it has not already been the case) to raise awareness on this cause – and that, way beyond the Russian frontiers...
And on a final side note, I think this unfortunate situation gives us great room for reflection on the potential “power”, “influence” that the lobbies surrounding our governmental institutions (e.g. in this particular case, the Russian Orthodox Church) may (or could possibly) acquire, even in democratic countries such as ours…
Source article (CNN): http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/10/world/europe/russia-gay-rights-controversy/index.html
LGBT: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” (Merriam-Webster).