Nail painting, hand holding and Russian intolerance
16th August 2013
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A human rights storm is brewing across the world as the time approaches for the eye of the storm, Russia, to host the Winter Olympics 2014. Once again the famous five rings have come under scrutiny as a sports festival held in the name of peace, togetherness and inclusiveness finds itself unceremoniously plonked into a country where these values do not appear to be encouraged. The debate over this year's Winter Olympics began on the 26th June when the country's President Vladamir Putin signed into law an "anti-propaganda bill targeting non-traditional relationships", setting off a wave of intolerance against the gay community across Russia. The bill, designed to protect minors in the country from being exposed to positive information about homosexuality, covers not only information promoting gay sex, but any information promoting same sex relationships. All Pride events have been ceased, all websites 'cleansed' and fines and imprisonment have become the price of resistance. The bill has become a green light for homophobes across the country as stories emerge of beatings, humiliations and torture for the gay community, in particular gay teenagers. A mere glance at the gay news website PinkNews.co.uk reveals some of the human rights infringements occurring in Russia, ranging from the arrest of peaceful protestors, to online blacklists outing homosexual minors, to the rape, torture and murder of gay individuals in the country, all while the Russian police turn a blind eye. Not to worry though, Putin has told the world that "homosexuals are equal citizens enjoying full rights", so as long as you're behind closed doors, haven't told anyone about your relationships and are prepared to fight alone against any homophobes who come knocking, knowing there will be no authoritative aid, you should be alright. Besides, we should mind our own business - Russia is allowed to uphold its own laws nationally (European Parliament's condemnation be damned) because Putin has so politely asked "[the rest of the world] not to interfere in our governance." This brings us back to the Winter Olympics, an international event which Russia requested to host, a request for the eyes of the world to be on Russia to celebrate a sporting festival of togetherness. Surely Russia can't have it both ways? "But this is a sporting festival!", I hear you cry, "can't we leave politics out of it and just enjoy the sport?". Well yes, we could, except the Russian government has now issued the following statement: "The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbour a non-traditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully."
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