“Gays are safe in 2014 Olympics” says Putin, activists disagree

A bill in Russia was passed banning “propaganda of non traditional sexual relations” can be a potential act of censorship for the LGBT community. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that gays are welcome in the Winter Olympics hosted in Sochi as long as they don’t spread “gay propaganda” and “leave the children in peace.”

The law prohibits the spread of propaganda among minors; this means the law prohibits speaking to anyone under the age of 18 about homosexuality.

“We have the ban on homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to stress this: propaganda among minors.” Said Putin.  The spread of propaganda among minors and the ban on certain relations are not the same thing according to Putin.

Some activists disagree.

Zach Ruiter, a gay rights activist in Toronto, disagrees with Putin’s claim and says that this is his way of deflecting from the issue and condoning homophobia towards the rest of the community.

“It sends a message to people that they are allowed to do whatever they want, that the state will not protect their rights. “It‘s a lot like Nazism.” Said Ruiter.

The rally that surrounded the State Duma hours before the bill was passed called for much resistance by Orthodox-Christian activists and pro-kremlin youth groups. The young men threw eggs at the activists while shouting homophobic slurs.

According to Ruiter, the fight for gay rights should not be limited to people in Russia. He says that to reach and address the problem we must make changes in our own community.

“Now that we’ve won gay marriage, its almost like the struggle is over. This simulation of queer liberation struggle in gay marriage has weakened our capacity to respond in solidarity.” Said Ruiter.

He says that the LGBT community in Toronto can fight back with persuading large companies to boycott the Olympics thus reaching out to the LGBT community in Russia.

Aeryn Pfaff, a Humber Journalism student says that the real victims are Russian gay youth in the sense that if they come out to their peers, they can be prosecuted for speaking about homosexuality. Pfaff explained that this bill could be seen as an act of censorship.

“As a kid I knew I was gay. Many Russian LGBT youth are the same. All these laws are doing is barring them from being able to find like minded people so that they can be happy.” Said Pfaff.

The absence of some world leaders in the winter Olympics this year will not have an impact on the games according to Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Alexander Zhukov.

Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande and Stephen Harper announced their absence in the winter Olympics this year.

Brad Fraser, a Canadian Journalist, says that Obama’s absence is not a boycott of the Olympics, It is rather related to other issues the western parts of the world are having with Russia, according to him.

He says that the best way to send a message to Russia about their law is to remove our participation and support in the games.

“Why are we sending people to compete at all? Why does the world not turn their back on Russia?” Said Fraser.

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