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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs