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IGLA Statement in Support of Russian LGBT Community

The Russian LGBT Sports Federation is hosting the Russian Open Games in Moscow from February 26, 2014 to March 2, 2014 immediately following the Winter Olympics in Sochi and prior to the Paralympics. The Russian Open Games has the goal of promoting sports among the LGBT community and its supporters and swimming will be one of the 8 competitions.

As we should all be well aware, Russia recently passed legislation that bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” What speech and activities constitute propaganda are unclear and the law has been implemented to ban not only gay pride parades but also any demonstration raising awareness of the plight of LGBT people in Russia. The law has had the secondary effect of declaring open hunting season on the LGBT community by placing an official stamp of disapproval on it. This state-sanctioned stigma has resulted in job loss, gay baiting, and police indifference to violent hate crimes against LGBT folk.

The unambiguous, express language of the Olympic Charter states “[a]ny form of discrimination … on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.” The International Olympic Committee had an opportunity to stay true to its charter and call to task its 2014 host nation. Instead the IOC has whitewashed Russia’s regime claiming that it is not in violation of the Olympic Charter, and in any case, the Olympics is not a political forum. The IOC has warned both the athletes and spectators not to engage in any form of political protest or demonstration during the Winter Olympics. This seems to include wearing rainbow flags or holding hands.

While other nations, notably in Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East, may have a more chilling human rights record with respect to their LGBT citizens, Russia is now the focus of international attention due to the Olympics, which presents a unique opportunity to raise global awareness of a persecuted sexual minority. The controversy will not end as the World Cup will be held in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022, where men can be jailed for up to three years for homosexual acts.

The International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Association expresses its unambiguous support to the Russian LGBT Sports Federation and all LGBT individuals in Russia. We are shocked and concerned with the events as they are unfolding there and we admire the courage and resilience of Russia’s LGBT community in the face of persecution and personal violence. You are not alone.

The IGLA Board of Directors

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