Russia is experiencing huge international backlash after recently passing anti-gay propaganda legislation which bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors.” So strong is the international disgust at this move that many countries, including the United States, are considering Boycotting the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in fear of what this legislation will mean for gay athletes traveling to the nation.
Calls to boycott the Winter Olympics began after Russia’s sports minister made a statement this week that Russian anti-gay laws will be enforced during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi…But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”
Anyone found guilty (residents and foreign citizens alike) of breaking the law face fines of up to $3,000, 15 days of jail time, and in the case of foreign citizens, deportation and denied re-entry.
WHY are people so genuinely shocked by this.
Obviously, these new laws are a huge set back for the LGBT community, and personally I find them appalling. However what I find incredulous is why the international community would honestly believe they should be exempt from adhering to and respecting the laws of the foreign country they are visiting.
Any traveler knows that upon entering another country they are subject to and expected to uphold the laws of that country. You may not agree with them, you may find them repulsive, however you respect them and you adhere to them. Otherwise you are arrested and detained, just like their residents would be. This isn’t news.
Traveling is all about experiencing another culture, and is not about imposing your own principles or beliefs on another nation. In regards to the Olympics, this is an event which brings countries together regardless of their differences, and an event which is about excellence in sport and international peace. International politics have no role in the Olympic Games; an event where countries come together in one location and leave their political agendas at the border.
Olympic athletes are not attending the Olympics as homosexuals, nor are they attending as heterosexuals. They are traveling as representatives of their country – as elite athletes – and Olympic teams have ALWAYS been required to adhere to an incredibly strict code of conduct when representing their country at an international event. This includes not demonstrating in the streets to further your personal or political agenda.
However in response to international backlash, it was reported today that the Russian law will not apply during the Olympics after all. In a statement from Igor Ananskikh, the head of the Russian Duma Committee on physical training, sports and youth, it was said:
“The Olympics is a major international event. Our task is to be as politically correct and tolerant as we can be. That’s why we made the decision not to raise this issue during the Games.”
My personal beliefs aside, I find it ridiculous that a country should have to bow to Western ideals and relax their laws to ensure attendance at an international event. Would the United States and Canada boycott the Olympics if they were held in the United Arab Emirates – a country which enforces no kissing or touching, no swearing or making indecent gestures, no indecent clothing and no sharing of private space with a member of the opposite sex? Did they boycott traveling to the recent Bejing Olympics over China’s questionable human rights activities? And is it not hypocritical for a country (the United States) to boycott the Olympic Games on an issue which so clearly continues to divide their own country.
Russia has not banned homosexuality. They haven’t issued a decree to detain anyone and everyone who might be homosexual, and homosexual acts are not illegal. What they have banned is the propaganda of it. Members of the LGBT community may still travel safely through Russia, so long as they keep their sexual orientation private. These laws are no different than those of the 78 other countries throughout the world which still enforce anti-homosexuality laws. This is no different than me being required to dress appropriately when traveling through Arab and Islamic countries, and refrain from public displays of affection with my partner in public.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with Russia’s new laws, respect the country enough to respect their laws, and don’t be surprised if you are detained and deported for breaking the law while in their country.
Do you think boycotting travel to Russia is the answer?