It seems that every time Russia supposedly gets a reform government, it becomes another tyrannical regime. From the Tsarist regime, to the Soviet Union, to Vladimir Putin, Russia has stood out among European nations for consistently having terrible human rights policies. Gay rights is one area in which Russian law seems downright medieval compared to other European countries. Unlike a number of European countries, gay marriage is illegal. Unlike most European countries, there is no federal workplace protection law covering sexual orientation. Now, Russia has enacted legislation that will take children away from parents suspected of being gay, forbidding people who live in a country with marriage equality from adopting Russian children, allowing gay or pro-gay rights tourists to be detained for two weeks, and effectively banning any pro-gay rights statements that could possibly be accessible to any underage person. America is behind much of the world in gay rights, and gays and lesbians are still treated as second class citizens here, but our country is clearly making great progress in this area. Russia, on the other hand, seems to be moving backwards. Vladimir Putin, the president who has been supporting this hateful legislation, is a tyrant with good publicity. It is clear that the former KGB officer has much in common with Joseph Stalin. Stalin was part of a regime that was supposed to be part of a new beginning. Instead, he re criminalized homosexuality and gave his nation a human rights record that was less heinous than Nazi Germany’s only because the government seemed to target people of all races for mistreatment equally. Likewise, Putin has tried to paint himself as a reformer who is trying to better his country, when in fact, he is destroying what freedom Russia gained when the Berlin Well fell.
The 2014 Winter Olympics are supposed to take place in Russia. Thanks to Putin’s new legislation, it is possible that any gay athletes will be arrested when they set foot on Russian soil. I urge the International Olympic Committee to not only choose a new location–perhaps Norway or Iceland–for the event but also to ban Russia and all other nations with similar or worse policies from the Olympics until such time as they are willing to treat their gay and lesbians residents with more respect. By allowing Russia to not only participate in but to host the Olympics, a message is being sent that the government’s totalitarian bigotry is really not a big deal. As long as athletes represent nations in the Olympics, rather than playing for independent teams, Olympic teams’ participation must be conditional on good human rights policies in their country of origin. In the past, the International Olympic Committee has sometimes chosen to look the other way regarding other country’s cruelties, in cases like those of Germany in 1936 and China in 2008. On the other hand, it has sometimes done the right thing, as in the case of South Africa for many years. I sometimes wonder if the Olympics do more harm than good. With not only bastions of freedom and equality like Iceland but also horrendously oppressive regimes like Saudia Arabia using the event as an excuse to extoll their national greatness, real or imagined, I cannot help but think that maybe the time would be better spent fighting for international human rights.
I also advocate that the United States and the U.N. take appropriate action against Russia. Russia and other nations with such unconscionable treatment of gays and lesbians should be branded rogue states, kicked out of the U.N., and be cut off from foreign trade. I will close this blog by saying that I find it ironic that whistleblower Edward Snowden may find refuge in Russia. Our country looks like an ACLU workshop compared to Russia.