Peter Tatchell and Stephen Fry protest against  Russian state homophobia in London on Saturday

Peter Tatchell and Stephen Fry protest against
Russian state homophobia in London on Saturday

While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attempts to negotiate a suspension of Russia’s gay propaganda law during the Olympics, the country’s Interior Ministry has insisted the law will remain in force during the Winter Games, reported Ria Novosti.

The ministry said that gay and lesbian athletes, or “people who harbour a nontraditional sexual orientation”, were welcome to attend and participate in the games, as long as they “do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully.”

The head of Russia’s National Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov added: “If a person does not put across his views in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken.

“People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the Games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever,” he said.

However, the gay propaganda law is so vague and broad that it remains unclear what acts could fall foul of the law.

Simply proclaiming to be gay, wearing a pro-gay t-shirt or holding a rainbow flag in public could be a violation.

Activists are also unhappy that the IOC is trying to negotiate a suspension of the law only for the period of the Olympics. They insist that this is not enough.

Masha Gessen, a lesbian activist, journalist and author told Queer Nation: “Suspending these laws in Sochi for two weeks won’t help ordinary gay men and lesbians in the rest of Russia once the Olympics leaves town. The IOC is saying, in essence, that it is willing to work with a fascist government as long as international visitors are protected. This is a profoundly immoral position.”

LGBTI activists in Russia remain divided on what strategy to take. While some support a boycott of the Olympics, others believe that more can be achieved by holding it in Russia and using the event to highlight the country’s anti-gay stance.

Meanwhile, protests against Russian homophobia have been taking place around the world.

In London, activists including Peter Tatchell and British celebrity Stephen Fry took part in a demonstration against the Russian anti-gay law. A kiss-in – dubbed “To Russia With Love” – was also staged by over 400 people in front of the Russian consulate in Antwerp.

Under the gay propaganda law, foreigners who display any public support for gay rights that might be seen by minors could be arrested for up to 14 days before being thrown out of Russia.

Next year’s Winter Olympic Games will be held in the Russian city of Sochi from 7 to 23 February.

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