Gay athletes to face arrest at Winter Olympics

Aug 01, 2013, 11:16 IST | Agencies

Gay sport stars and spectators attending the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia could face being arrested and deported under the country's new controversial anti-gay legislation

Gay athletes and sports fans that turn up at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, could be at risk of arrest and deportation, it has emerged.

A senior Russian politician has revealed his nation will not be suspending its anti-gay laws during the prestigious competition.

Out of the closet: Russian gay rights activists carry out a protest against the new anti-gay legislation, which was passed in June. File Pic

This is despite pleas from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to scrap the gay propaganda ban -- that in effect makes it illegal to be homosexual -- for the duration of the event.

Vitaly Milonov, the man behind the ‘gay propaganda’ ban that was signed into federal law on June 30, says the government does not have the authority to selectively suspend or enforce the legislation.

Milonov says the laws cannot be changed, “I haven’t heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation, but I know that it is acting in accordance with Russian law. And if a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.”

Milonov claimed the laws are ‘defending children from the propaganda of non-traditional values’. The law bans ‘homosexual propaganda’ at public events and the distribution of materials to young people.

Fines of up to $30,000 (Rs 18.12 lakh) apply to those who break the new laws, while it also allows the government to detain gay or ‘pro-gay’ foreigners for up to 14 days before they face deportation.

Milonov’s comments come just weeks after the IOC maintained that the Games were open to everyone. “The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation,” the IOC said in a statement.

“The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.”

While there are no official figures on anti-gay crime in Russia, gay rights campaigners say most attacks go unreported and the lack of official statistics hide the truth.

“As a rule, all these crimes are categorised as something ordinary - they argued over a bottle of vodka, or there was ‘personal animosity’. The real motive of hate is not mentioned.” The Sochi Games will be held between February 7-23, 2014

23 The number of gays who participated in the 2012 London Olympics

11 The number of gays who participated in the 2004 Athens Olympics

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