Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law yesterday one of the most draconian anti-gay laws on the planet.
The new law, coming only seven months before Russia is to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi, would ban anything considered pro-gay, from gay-affirmative speech, to gays holding hands in public, to even wearing rainbow suspenders.
The law also contains a provision permitting the government to arrest and detain gay, or pro-gay, foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from the country. That provision ought to send chills to anyone gay, lesbians, bisexual or transgender who is planning to attend or participate in the Winter Olympics.
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.
Then there’s the seemingly officially-sanctioned violence against gay, bisexual and trans people in Russia. It’s been made clear for years now that Russian government will turn a blind eye towards anti-gay violence, and many have alleged that the Russian government is actually behind such violence. Will gay Olympic athletes and gay Olympic fans be targeted for violence while in Russia? No one knows.
What we do know is that the International Olympic Committee’s response to the growing threat of violence against gay athletes and gay Olympics fans has been rather anemic to date. The IOC’s response has been so weak that Human Rights Watch recently sent the Olympic Committee a rather scathing letter demanding that the IOC take action to enforce their own charter, which bans discrimination.
What can we do? For starters, cities like Los Angeles, Quebec and Paris should drop, or suspend, their Sister City relationships with Russian cities.
More importantly, anyone thinking of attending the Olympics in Russia, a country that appears to be sinking fast into its old authoritarian ways, should stay home. In fact, Russian gays living in the US, but originally from Russia, are calling for a boycott of the Sochi games:
“LGBT people in Russia are scared, they live in fear, and we want people to be aware of the issue. If they feel strongly about human rights they should boycott the Olympics in Sochi,” said Nina Long, co-president of RUSA LGBT, a Russian-speaking LGBT organization based in New York.
“We really want the LGBT community to know it’s unsafe to travel there,” she said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
Enjoy the Olympics in Sochi. It should be a real kick.