REFOCUS BY GERARD VELDHOVEN
A real concern is brewing regarding the treatment of gay athletes at the Sochi Winter Games in Russia.
A committee in Ottawa questioned a Russian official on proposed arrests if foreign athletes display any kind of indication about their sexual orientation. President Putin vaguely mentioned that these participants will not be bothered by authorities. However, a couple of government ministers have repeated that any kind of public stance on homosexuality or any sort of display of affection, (as with heterosexual adults), will not be tolerated. A male and female will not be arrested for holding hands, but let a gay couple make such an attempt and the cuffs come out.
We receive mixed messages from Russian authorities and that is very worrisome indeed. I have voiced concerns about this before as have thousands of others around the globe. The facts speak for themselves as the anti-gay legislation arbitrarily gives police the power to arrest anyone detected in some sort of affection, however mild, or voice an opinion on the subject. Free speech in Russia is against the law and the gay citizens of that country are in constant fear of being arrested and thrown in prison.
What must take place to make world leaders take positive action against a nation such as Russia? Uganda, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and others are getting away with defeating human rights. Words are a mere solution that does not work, but let a few country leaders really stand up and be counted by defending human rights and put in place sanctions of some sort. Pussyfooting does not produce positive results. The International Olympic Committee also turns a blind eye to this horrific problem by sanctioning a law that defiles human rights.
In Canada we have athletes who belong to the gay community and they stand to lose their freedom. The world is a powerful collection of nations, but only a handful has equal rights and treatment for the queer members of our society. Religious leaders and government heads have been mostly silent, thereby supporting Russia’s antiquated attitudes and so turn a blind eye to equality.
This strongly indicates of the work that lies ahead for those of us who fight, raise awareness and promote diversity. We must choose our leaders very carefully and then perhaps we’ll have support for a world where respect, peace and dignity will rule. Comments and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.