Chris Van Es/NewsArt

Chris Van Es • NewsArt,

With Olympics on tap, Putin's antigay rhetoric picks up

  • December 14, 2013 - 2:00 PM


With Olympics on tap, he targets gays

With the Winter Olympics set to begin in less than two months, Russian President Vladi­mir Putin is positioning his country as a global leader of intolerance for homosexuality.

While Russia does not wish to be a superpower, he told parliament in a major speech Thursday, it will be a bulwark against “so-called tolerance — genderless and infertile” that equates “good and evil.” He went on to denounce the “destruction of traditional values from the top,” which he said is “inherently undemocratic because it is based on abstract ideas and runs counter to the will of the majority of the people.”

Putin’s outburst came a couple of days after he abolished the state news agency RIA Novosti, folded it into a new organization and appointed as its head a television host named Dmitry Kiselyov, who is notorious for antigay diatribes. Russian coverage of the Games will now be directed in part by a man who has said that it is not enough to fine gays for homosexual “propaganda,” as a law signed by Putin this year mandates: “Their hearts should be buried in the ground or burned.”

Putin’s actions place him blatantly at odds with Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which bans “any form of discrimination” by a host country. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which overlooked China’s crackdown on free expression and political dissent prior to the 2008 Summer Games, has declined to take notice — much less to put pressure on Moscow. Instead, IOC officials are pointing to statements by Putin that gay athletes and spectators will not be discriminated against during the Games. That assurance is looking increasingly dubious. Putin’s rhetoric and the antigay law he supported have opened the floodgates for gay-bashing in Russia.

A group of brave Russian LGBT activists visited Washington in the hope of calling attention to the growing pressure on them. To reject Putin’s campaign to dehumanize gay people is to uphold what the Olympics should be about. As Anastasia Smirnova, coordinator of a coalition of Russian LGBT organizations, put it: “This is about identity, not politics. Stating your identity is not political.”


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