News / Europe

Russia's Anti-Gay Law Tests Olympic Tenets

Gold medallists from team Russia kiss celebrating their victory at the women's 4x400 meters relay during the World Athletics Championships in Moscow August 17, 2013.Gold medallists from team Russia kiss celebrating their victory at the women's 4x400 meters relay during the World Athletics Championships in Moscow August 17, 2013.
x
Gold medallists from team Russia kiss celebrating their victory at the women's 4x400 meters relay during the World Athletics Championships in Moscow August 17, 2013.
Gold medallists from team Russia kiss celebrating their victory at the women's 4x400 meters relay during the World Athletics Championships in Moscow August 17, 2013.
David Byrd
The Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are less than six month months away.  But a controversy over a Russian law that bans propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations could cast a shadow over the competition and negatively impact the Olympic movement.
 
The text of the Olympic charter is rather straightforward.  Article 4 reads:
 
"The practice of sport is a human right.  Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
 
The charter later says that any form of discrimination “is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”
 
In addition, the European Convention on Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”  It also guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
 
When former fencing gold medalist Thomas Bach was elected International Olympic Committee president this week, he pledged to represent all those in the Olympic movement.
 
“I want to lead the IOC according to my motto, ‘Unity in Diversity.’ I want to be a president for all of you. This means I will do my very best to balance well all the different interests of the stakeholders of the Olympic movement,” said the new IOC president.
 
However, Bach could find himself caught between the IOC charter, the European Convention on Human Rights, and Russian law.
 
In June, the Russian Duma passed, and President Vladimir Putin signed, a law that bans the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” The bill defines “nontraditional” as “relations not conducive to procreation.”
 
The law bans distribution of information among minors aimed at “creating nontraditional sexual attitudes,” or such that “makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive.”  It also bars communication that “equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations” or that “creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.”
 
Violating the law carries fines and the threat of imprisonment for up to 15 days.  Individual Russian citizens can be fined up to $1,500, organizations – up to $30,000 for infractions.  If the “propaganda” is in the media or on the Internet, the fines are even higher.  Foreign citizens face similar penalties, plus a possible detention and deportation.
 
Barrage of criticism
 
The law has faced widespread criticism.
 
U.S. President Barrack Obama said he was “offended” by the legislation.  However, the president said he did not believe that U.S. athletes should boycott the Sochi Games.

Several human rights organizations - including Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign - have called on the IOC to speak out against the law before the Sochi Games.  Minky Worden, director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch, says the IOC missed its chance to speak up for human rights when Sochi was awarded the Games.
 
“These are [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s Olympics.  It’s very important to him and to the Russian government.  And if there had been adequate communication that there was a major problem with this anti-gay law, I think we wouldn’t be in this mess right now,” said Worden.
 
Because the Russian law is vague on what constitutes “propaganda,” there is confusion about what behavior is acceptable by both athletes and spectators.  IOC Communications director Mark Adams said that the governing body received assurances from the Russian government that spectators or athletes would not be targeted. 
 
“We have from the deputy prime minister and more recently from the prime minister - from the president - an absolute undertaking that the law will not affect spectators, athletes or anyone else attending the Games.  Now, how that works in practice, that’s something for the Russian authorities to work out.  But we have an absolute undertaking from them that the Olympic charter will be respected,” said Adams.
 
‘Fundamental failure’

However, Adams said any protest by athletes or spectators within Olympic sites would be a violation of Olympic rules.  Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch says the IOC’s response does not address the fundamental issue.

“For the IOC to say after the fact that they are not going to punish athletes who speak outside of the Olympics is really failing to address the fundamental question of how did this law get passed in the first place?  The answer is it was a fundamental failure to communicate with the Russian government that discrimination is not allowed in the Olympic charter and the government needs to repeal the law,” said Worden.
 
Several organizations have called for a boycott of the Games.  Short of that, gay rights organizations have called on sponsors - many of them based in the United States - to withdraw support.
 
Ross Murray is the director of news at GLAAD, a leading U.S.-based gay rights organization.  He says the sponsors - including Visa, NBC, Coca-Cola and others - need to show that their human rights policies apply worldwide, not just inside U.S. borders.
 
“I think that there is going to be a lot of pressure on to those sponsors to demonstrate how LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) friendly they are in the United States - do those same things play out in other countries,” said Murray.
 
World is watching’

Nina Long is a co-president of RUSA LGBT, a U.S.-based group of Russian expatriates that opposes the new law.  She says any controversy at the Games could embarrass the Russian government, something she says Games organizers very much want to avoid.
 
“You know, the world is watching.  And they (the Russian government) have this law that they very much defend. And then the people who come - foreigners - some would break that law.  But it’s going to be an international scandal if they try to arrest them.  So the Russian government has put themselves in a very, very difficult and awkward situation, and we wish that they would repeal the law because that’s the easiest way to get out of it,” said Long.
 
The IOC Charter says that the goal of the Olympic movement is to “place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind.”  It also says that belonging to the Olympic movement requires compliance with that charter.
 
However, the IOC is not expected to apply much pressure for Russia to change its law.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mary Waterton from: USA
September 15, 2013 10:23 AM
I see the homosexual-saturated news media is still circulating the picture of Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova with the lie attached that this was a "lesbian kiss" done in protest when, in fact, they have repeatedly stated that it was none of the above. But what does the TRUTH matter to liberal activist news journalists.
In Response

by: Rontourage from: usa
September 16, 2013 2:18 AM
And what does GRAMMAR matter to conservatives who leave comments?

by: MARIA from: PHILIPPINES
September 13, 2013 6:06 PM
olympics are sacred in the sense that we use our God given talent and strenght to all and that something out of creation is not appropriate.putin may be harsh but he is right in that belief.syrias problem should take center stage.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More