Denounce Homophobia: Push Russia to Retract Anti-Gay Laws

LGBT activist attacked during a picket against a homophobic bill in St. Petersburg, Russia

Target: Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee

Goal: Demand retraction of anti-gay laws in Russia

Several pieces of legislation that threaten the freedom of speech and expression have passed recently in Russia. Among them is a law to ban “gay propaganda” to children, and another law allows police to arrest tourists and foreign nationals for suspicion of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and to detain them for up to 14 days. The second law puts athletes and fans at risk during the Winter Olympic Games that are to be held in Sochi in 2014. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should forcefully demand now that these laws are shelved.

The most recent law to pass was the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” and while the legal definition of “propaganda” remains unclear, several arrests and lawsuits have revealed some of the law’s far-reaching boundaries. There have been reports of arrest for kissing, holding hands, wearing or using rainbows and pro-gay activism. People cannot admit in public that they are of homosexual orientation. The punishment is a fine for Russian nationals, and a fine, up to 15 days in prison and deportation for foreigners.

In conjunction with the law that allows foreigners and tourists to be arrested just for the suspicion of being gay or a supporter of gay rights, this would mean that athletes, trainers, fans and reporters attending the Olympic Games are at risk of being arrested and detained for anything the police deems suspicious of a gay activity. This situation is not only a blatant disregard for the freedom of speech and expression that is ostensibly protected by the Russian Constitution, but also a threat to safety of gay athletes and tourists. Violence against homosexuals is on the rise in Russia, and these laws defend the wrongdoers.

In response to a public outcry for the IOC to denounce these laws and the violence against gays and lesbians they protect, the Committee followed with a less than desirable statement. In part it read, “As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media. Wider political issues in the country are best dealt with by other international organizations more suited to this endeavor.” The Committee must show leadership by protecting every Olympic Games participant’s freedom and safety. Sign below to demand concrete action from the IOC.


Dear Mr. Rogge,

Two pieces of legislation that recently became laws in Russia are deeply disturbing. One law allows the police to detain foreigners and tourists for the suspicion of being gay or a supporter of gay rights for up to 14 days. Another law bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” The punishment for breaking this law is a fine and up to 15 days in jail for foreign nationals.

Both laws will have an impact on the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014. Any athlete, trainer, journalist or fan can be arrested, detained and deported just for the suspicion of being gay or supporting of gay rights. Furthermore, these laws protect those who attack gay people and make such attacks seem morally justified in the eyes of the law.

The International Olympic Committee should not sit idly by and wait for the consequences to roll out. You should demand that the Russian government shelve these laws and guarantee that the country will ensure that every Olympic Games participant’s right of expression and safety are protected.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Roma Yandolin via Flickr

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