Friday 7th February 2014 sees the opening of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, where the greatest winter sports athletes from around the world come to compete with each other in a show of tremendous sporting prowess. Given how much I loved my visit to the London 2012 Olympics, you might expect that I’ll be watching this event with equal enthusiasm.
I’m boycotting Sochi.
For starters, here are 36 photos which perfectly illustrate why.
Or how about these charming events in Russia.
Or this video coverage as reported in the Daily Mail (you know it must be bad when even the Daily Mail thinks Russia’s persecution of LGBT people is over the top)
On 29th June 2013, Russia passed legislation banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexuality” to people under the age of 18. Anyone charged under this law faces heavy fines and possible imprisonment of up to 90 days. Under the law, LGBT people in Russia have been targeted as a threat to the church, to the family and — most important — to traditional Russian national values. There has even been talk of removing children from families with same-sex parents. This law makes it illegal to hold any sort of public demonstration in favour of gay rights, speak in defence of gay rights and distribute material related to gay rights, or to state that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.
Oh, you thought they said the law was to “protect” children? Think again, it is also being used to persecute gay children.
LGBT people in Russia now routinely face beatings, imprisonment, torture and worse, both at the hands of homophobic Russians. No problem, you might think, surely the authorities will step in and protect innocent LGBT victims being systematically and routinely beaten up?
No. Quite the reverse – the Russian authorities and Police are very often at the forefront of actively beating up LGBT people. All sanctioned by Putin and the Russian government.
As Human Rights Watch have observed, when the June 2013 legislation was passed, “Simultaneously, a vicious homophobic campaign began in the media, particularly state-sponsored and state-controlled outlets”.
Indeed, on multiple occasions when asked about his country’s outright and open hostility to LGBT people, and whether gay visitors to the Olympics will be safe, Putin has said “Gays will be welcome as long as they leave our children alone”. Echoing, of course, the age old homophobic position of equating homosexuality with paedophilia, despite the fact that the two are not related and gays are no more likely to rape children than straights are. Of course, he equates the two to enable his country to continue their campaign of violence against LGBT people via innuendo and implication.
For the record, Putin has been responsible for some of the most egregious human-rights violations in recent history. These include backing Bashar Assad’s murderous regime in Syria, election rigging, and jailing protesters, business people, journalists and activists who have dared to challenge him and his authoritarian rule.
He has led government-sponsored crackdowns and deportations of migrant workers from the Caucasus and Central Asia, including Uzbeks, Tajiks, Georgians, Azeris and Kyrgyz. His government was behind the invasion and occupation of Georgia in 2008.
But besides a few slaps on the wrist from the international community, Putin has more or less got away with all of this. The same is true of his state-sanctioned violence and abuse of LGBT people.
So that’s why I will not be watching any of the blood-stained Sochi winter olympics.
Am I saying that you should also not watch them? Nope. That’s entirely up to you. If you want to watch them, then go ahead – you are perfectly free to live your live the way you choose. Sadly not something that would be true of me if I were unfortunate enough to be in Russia, and certainly not something true of the thousands of people in Russia who are attracted to like-minded people who just happen to have the same genital form.