The Sochi Winter Olympics already have bad press due to Russia’s anti-gay laws. In the face of stark negativity, out-and-proud U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir says, “The most positive thing we can do for the [LGBT] community is to show that we are united and we are strong,” via Here & Now.
“The most positive thing we can do for the [LGBT] community is to show that we are united and we are strong,” says Johnny Weir, U.S. figure skater.
Weir is just one voice speaking out about the LGBT community response to recently passed Article 6.21. With rising tension over LGBT rights at the Olympic Games, LGBT organizations Russian LGBT Network and ILGA urge people not to boycott the Sochi Olympic Games.
The Russian LGBT Network is an umbrella group consisting of 13 branches throughout Russia. Ten organizations make up this inter-regional public movement which hopes to achieve; “equal rights regardless of sexual orientation and [transform] gender identity into a powerful public force.”
Founded in 2006, the Russian LGBT Network has recently received mass media attention. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Article 6.21 passed the State Duma, or Russian parliament, on June 30, 2013. Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses overtly anti-gay.
The Russian LGBT has been called to respond to Article 6.21. Under the wings of International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, ILGA, which operates throughout Europe, Russian LGBT Network has formed a multifaceted response to the new legislation.
Rather than plan riots or protests ILGA and Russian LGBT Network are using a number of approaches to be heard while the globe is focused on Sochi. ILGA Europe hopes their tactics will have “real positive impact on the ground in Russia” as well as raising awareness without “feeding further negative sentiment in Russia itself.” They stand behind message “use the Games to speak out, but don’t walk out.” The two organizations are working together with ILGA as the brain and Russian LGBT Network as the brawn at the Sochi Olympics.
The movement’s plan is a six part approach.
1. ILGA requests time. Because of The Foreign Agents Law, all Russian LGBT Network meetings must be held in secret.
2. ILGA wishes to craft a holistic message that will achieve rights for all minority groups, not only LGBT individuals.
3. The movement wishes to improve basic human rights and build “civil society in Russia.”
4. ILGA wishes to plan ahead through education and awareness in Russia of LGBT individuals and their rights.
5. ILGA wishes to raise awareness in the West in order to put pressure on the Kremlin. The movement believes if the world is knowledgeable about what is happening to LGBT individuals under Russian rule, the abuse of LGBT rights will be addressed.
6. ILGA urges other governments to “study serious sanctions with Russia” so as not to return to a “bygone era” of prejudice.
Despite their six part plan, ILGA does not wish to “make bold statements” at Sochi but instead wishes to initiate dialogue amongst influential people. Through prominent individuals in society and politics, ILGA wants the conversation of human rights of LGBT people to start. The movement hopes it will lead the way to find a realistic solution.
Currently, the laws in Russia forbid distribution of “Propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” Anything that promotes “non-traditional sexual attitudes, attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations, misperceptions of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations” qualifies as propaganda under Article 6.21.
Russia has been met with much criticism over Article 6.21 internationally and spectators fear that Russia’s anti-gay laws will cast a shadow over the Games. Russia rejected the presence of a Pride House in the Sochi Olympic Village, a place for LGBT athletes and volunteers to gather, in early 2013. Since then tensions have risen due to Article 6.21 while more and more controversies that are linked to LGBT rights and the Sochi Olympics have added pressure to the situation.
ILGA urges people to NOT boycott. However, several boycotts have already begun internationally. Among them are cancellation of twin city relationships with Russia, boycotting Russian-exported vodka, and the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
The precarious situation the LGBT community already faces in Russia combined with the global attention from the Games could end badly of the LGBT community. If export decreases, cities sever their ties and the Games do not go well, ILGA fears LGBT organizations and individuals will be “scapegoated”.
ILGA and the Russian LGBT Network do not wish to give the Russian government any ammunition to use against their cause and their fight for equal rights for all.