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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora