Holding a multi-coloured flag is now a threat to state security.

Holding a multi-coloured flag is now a threat to state security.

Despite widespread criticism, Russia will apparently enforce a new law cracking down on gay rights activism when it hosts international athletes and fans during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the country’s sports minister said Thursday, appearing to contradict assurances to the contrary from the International Olympic Committee.

Russia’s contentious law was signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, imposing fines on individuals accused of spreading ”propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, and even proposing penalties for those who express these views online or in the news media. Gay pride rallies also are banned.

”An athlete of non-traditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Vitaly Mutko said in an interview with R-Sport, the sports newswire of state news agency RIA Novosti. ”But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”

So, it’s OK if you keep it in the closet, but being out and proud is no longer acceptable in “modern Russia”. Pfft. The country slides ever further back into the bad old past under Vlad’s dictatorial KGB-bred rule.

"That hat is SO Priscilla Queen of the Desert, darling."  " I knew you'd love it, big boy."

“That hat is SO Priscilla Queen of the Desert, darling.”  ” I knew you’d love it, big boy.”

Mutko emphasized that the law wasn’t designed to punish anyone for being gay or lesbian. But like the Russian lawmakers who authored the bill, Mutko said athletes would be punished only for propaganda, a word that remains ambiguous under the new law. The shameful treatment of peaceful protestors like Pussy Riot shows what the laughable disgrace that passes for a legal system in Russia is capable of.

Murko said: ”The corresponding law doesn’t forbid non-traditional orientation, but other things: propaganda, involvement of minors and young people.”

Whether or not a gay lifestyle is ‘non traditional’ – highly debatable if one looks at history, Ancient Greece anyone? – and whether or not portraying a gay lifestyle as acceptable to young people could be in any way considered propaganda or even wrong – surely they will emerge as better adjusted adults, regardless of their sexual orientation, if equipped with a balanced world view? – to see Russia moving emphatically in the other direction from the rest of Europe, the Americas, and much of Asia merely serves to stress that the country is a long, long way to conforming to modern notions of equity and equality.

The law specifies punishment for foreign citizens, to include fines of up to 100,000 rubles (US$3,000), prison for up to 15 days, deportation and denial of re-entry into Russia.

Four Dutch citizens working on a documentary film about gay rights in the northern Russian town of Murmansk were the first foreigners to be detained under the new law, although their case did not make it to court, according to RIA Novosti.

While activists and organizations supportive of gay rights have called for a ban on Russian-made products like Stolichnaya vodka in bars across North America, they have yet to find a unified response to the Sochi Games.

Instead of a boycott of the Olympics, athletes have made individual gestures and called for protests, such as a pride parade, to be held during the games. One wonders what Russian attitudes will be to a podium gay rights protest similar to the black civil rights protest at the Mexico Olympics.

Despite the obvious grey areas and potential for conflict, the IOC said last week that it had received assurances ”from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games.” It pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media in Sochi.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Thursday the committee continues to accept past assurances from the Russian government that the law will not affect athletes, officials or spectators during the games.

Gerhard Heiberg, a senior IOC member from Norway, also said Thursday that in winning the games, Russia and the city of Sochi had committed to preventing discrimination of any sort. But he issued a word of caution to the athletes.

”At the same time we always say to our athletes, ‘We do not want any demonstrations in one or the other direction. Please, you are there to compete and behave. Please don’t go out on the Net or in the streets,'” Heiberg said. ”I think it was very clear for London in 2012 and it will be very clear in 2014. Demonstrations in one way or another, no, but discrimination, absolutely not.”

(Definitely the case: whatever you do, if you’re a female, don’t flash your tits anywhere near the Olympics.)

More moral courage on display from the IOC. They really are an appallingly conservative organisation.

Oh well. So much for free speech. Just another small blow; just another small slip on the slope towards removing the right to protest, a trend we see gathering pace worldwide.

Your thoughts, Edward Snowden?

Meanwhile, all those – gay, straight, or anything in between – who are interested in sexual equality in sport and an end to homophobia will be interested in this campaign organisation.

And protests continue grow, including a spreading movement to stop using Russian products such as Stolichnaya and other Russian vodkas.

Luckily, I prefer Finnish vodka anyway, so that switch will be easy enough.

(With Associated Press, Yahoo and others)

Read more about Russia’s homophobic traditions here.

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Comments
  1. gwpj says:

    Hi Yolly,

    Excellent post, which I’ve shared on FB, tweeted, stumbled, dug and Google+d. Tried to say that on your Comments, but for the 2nd day in a row, I’m not allowed to post comments. Have I become a pariah, or is this some bug of some kind? 🙂

    Like

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