By Nick Stumo-Langer ’15, PoliticOle Columnist
Russia has been making news headlines in recent weeks pertaining to a variety of issues that places significant distance between itself and other states. Whether it be granting the NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum in their country or banning all further adoptions from the United States, Russia remains etched in international headlines. All the while President Vladimir Putin remains indifferent to the heavy critiques he is earning.
The day Russia announced that Snowden would receive temporary asylum the controversial decision dominated news headlines and talk-analysis shows. There is, however, another more controversial and devastating decision that Russia has made recently that, in all reasonable expectations, should garner much higher international scrutiny. This being Russia’s wealth of discriminatory anti-LGBTQIA laws.
The collection of laws widely banning an entire smorgasbord of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” and international adoption by parents who reside in a country where gay rights exist were signed by President Putin last month. These laws prove only to further the vicious and violent sentiment that these individuals and families, who represent “nontraditional sexual relations,” are worth less. Reports from the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) indicate that “homophobic and transphobic violence has been recorded in all regions” of the world. Russia, in this regard, is no exception and seems to be a veritable hotbed for discrimination including what the UNHCHR has called “arbitrary deprivations of liberty.”
What is especially deplorable about this law “defending” traditional sexual relations is that not only can the Russian authorities fine or jail you if you are LGBTQIA (or an ally) but they are empowered by the Russian Parliament to be able to take the children of any of these individuals in order to protect them from this “propaganda.” So let’s make this clear. The way that you could put yourself in danger in Russia is as follows:
- If you are suspected of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” as a foreign national or tourist you could be detained for up to 14 days
- If you are in possession of “homosexual propaganda” (i.e. LGBT leaflets, rainbow flags, equality pins, etc.) it is labeled as pornography and you will be fined or arrested.
- If you are a teacher and you instruct that homosexuality is anything but deplorable you are subject to being fined and arrested.
- Your children can be taken away from you if you are suspected to be gay, lesbian, or any ally by the Russian authorities.
The status of the laws in reference to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics has been clarified by a St. Petersburg politician whose city law the national laws are based off of, Vitaly Milonov. He says that “if a law has been passed by parliament and signed by the president, the government has no right or powers to reverse it.” Mr. Putin and a high number of Russian officials will surely attempt to calm the storm by ensuring that the athletes will not be affected by the discrimination. A moot point considering that because of the codification of LBGTQIA discrimination Russians will be able to let loose their own homophobia and transphobia as they have at numerous gay pride rallies throughout Russia.
(The sign says, “Love is stronger than homophobia.”)
Only a multilateral boycott of the Sochi Olympics will be effective in sending a message that the world is not content repeating the mistake of attending the Berlin 1936 Olympics. While Putin is not Hitler and the Russian government is not a collection of Nazis, the international community must take a stand against blatant, violent discrimination. If the United States were to be the only boycotter of the Sochi games the precedent set would be lost in a sea of Cold War references, Snowden tie-ins, and a hyper-focus on the Obama-Putin dynamic. However, if other major states whom have some form of LGBTQIA rights or have signed an international nonbinding declaration at the United Nations boycott on the grounds of human rights violations it may propel the international community forward. The shunning of the 2014 games by large international players such as Sweden, South Korea, Norway, Japan, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom could prove devastating to the revenue Russia expects to earn from the games while also marking the Sochi games as one soured by medieval discrimination policies.
Idealistic as this expectation is, it fits in with the developing attitudes surrounding LGBTQIA issues in the international spectrum. Just this summer Queen Elizabeth II endorsed same sex marriage in the United Kingdom, attitudes are moving forward. Homophobia is becoming less and less accepted in the international community and the march of progress is heard around the world. Boycotting Sochi and citing Russia’s blatant discrimination as the reason is necessary in fighting this ugly abuse of power. While boycotting Russia will not change all attitudes it will send a message to homophobic citizens of all states that this is not acceptable behavior. One needs to only view images from Russian Gay Pride rallies, “Kiss-Ins”, and other non-violent protests (Caution: Graphic Images) to see that the international community as a duty to step in and symbolically reject the human rights abuse Russia has recently passed. Playing politics and idly sitting by will not work with this issue.
These sources were integral in researching this article:
- Russian Gay Rights Controversy – CNN
- Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown – NY Times
- Make Olympics in Russia Gayest Ever – CNN
- Russian Anti-Gay Laws Inspire Potential Sochi Boycotts – KGW
- 36 Photos from Russia Everyone Needs to See – Buzzfeed
- UN Calls for Protection of Gay Rights – Al Jazeera
- Boycott Sochi 2014
Nick Stumo-Langer ’15 is is a Junior History and Political Science major with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. Nick is a regular PoliticOle columnist. You can reach him at email@example.com.