It is always said that the Winter Olympics is a mere supporting act for the actual main event – it’s Summer version. The ratings would agree, and up until this year the media buzz supported that notion too. The winter games have never been given the same fanfare as the summer one. But this year in particular, the Winter Olympics suddenly became the talk of the town and been given rare attention – albeit, of the not-so-desirable variety.
Today, the 22nd Winter Olympics games open in Sochi, Russia – and all the festivities will be closely scrutinized by the international community. For every performer that sings, every dance group that wows the crowd with synchronized movements and every firework that shoots through the skies there comes an underlying tension that has been boiling for many months leading to this quadrennial sporting event.
Just on the 30th of June of the previous year, Russia earned the ire of the very vocal – and very leftist – international media when it enacted a vaguely named bill ‘protecting’ the rights of heterosexual couples, or as the bill calls it ‘traditional sexual relations’. It bans same-sex marriage and forbids the teaching of homosexual relations and culture to students below 18-years of age. The bill passed unanimously in the Russian Duma, with all 434 members voting in favor of it. Opinion polls also showed that a staggering 90 percent of the Russian public supported the bill, which means that support for the bill is strong in both government and its’ people.
While Putin may have signed a bill popular with his people, the timing of it could not have been worse – just under a year before the Olympic games to be held in Sochi, enough time for the news to spread around the world and enough time for gay-rights activists to rally support to demonize what could be Russia’s biggest hosting gig in recent years.
And indeed scrutiny came, a lot of it in fact. One of the earliest critics of the bill came from traditional gay rights activist, writer Stephen Fry who compared Russia’s anti-gay legislation to the Holocaust. No doubt about it, Russia’s new law is discriminatory and indeed very abhorrent especially with 21st century standards – but to compare it to one of the worst genocides in history is a bit over-the-top.
It cannot be said what effect Mr. Fry was aiming for – whether literal or hypothetical or whatever – but regardless of what it may be, one thing it surely is is tasteless and appropriately drew the ireof Jewish people.
Stephen Fry’s best friend, actor Hugh Laurie, provided a tasteless comment of his own by saying that Russians “have nothing of value to offer to the world”. Laurie reportedly said that comment after downing a shot of vodka.
All jokes aside, we can see where the comments of the acclaimed duo Fry and Laurie come from but those two have no regard for context whatsoever. Also lacking perspective are the writers of gay activist blog AmericaBlog.com, who wrote that Russia’s new law were the most “draconian” in the world.
Props to them for using such a sophisticated word, but it is a bit of an exaggeration when used to describe the situation in Russia. You can call it discriminatory, because it is. You can call it anti-gay, because it is. But when saying it is the most draconian in the world is rather ignorant of the situation in other nations. Think of Saudi Arabia, where they have a two-strike law for homosexual acts. First offence merits a violent punishment such as scores of lashes or flogging, and if caught a second time then the law sentences the perpetrators to death. In addition to that, gays are also excluded from receiving education.
United States president Barack Obama, who often portrays himself as a champion of equal rights slammed Putin and Russia in atelevised interview. Obama claims that he has “no patience” for countries that mistreat their LGBT communities, like Russia he says. But take note, this is the same Obama who once said that Saudi Arabia is a “close ally” and sells them $30-B worth of military supplies. It’s hard to find a transcript of Obama anywhere which he criticizes Saudi Arabia for their treatment of their gays and lesbians.
Obama also only has nice things to say to the United Arab Emirates, which the US considers as a “key ally” and deported a Belgian man for admitting he was gay; Qatar, where the U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters are based and has a seven-year prison sentence for homosexuals; and Singapore, where they still maintain a colonial-era ban on male-on-male homosexual acts.
It’s unfair to single out Obama on this, as a matter of fact there has not been a liberal uproar over the anti-gay legislations of the mentioned states. Not to mention, discrimination in nations such as Saudi Arabia does not limit to homosexuals but to women as well.
So let’s put that comment from AmericaBlog in review now, is Russia really the most draconian state out there towards homosexuals? I would argue no. Why? Because regardless of how cruel and harsh the law is on their LGBT community, there is still no legislation which puts homosexuals to death or forbids them from receiving basic liberties such as an education.
In fact, a homophobic murder which happened in Russia early last year was swiftly given justice by authorities. Contrary to what liberal media in the US has been spewing that Russian police have the authority to “interrogate people they suspect of being gay or lesbian.”
Of course, to say Russia is off-the-hook by pointing out other nations do worse is a complete red herring. This essay is in no way, an apologist-defense of their law because I agree that it is indeed wrong and discriminates people unfairly. But if liberals were to forward their progressive agenda and indeed fight for human rights all over the world, then they should start where homosexuals are not only banned from marrying but are also stoned to death. They should wage their wars on nations which impose the “most draconian anti-gay laws” in the world. (This list might be helpful: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharon-kelly/10-key-us-allies-with-ant_b_3984532.html)
But what do we see from the left? They fight for Iran’s nuclear program and they throw their bodies on the line for Palestine. And let’s not forget that liberal-haven Florida still has a ban on gay marriage.
The most liberating thing to do is to pose a challenge to the grim rules set by the Shariah, something very few people would do. Another would be to call out states which call themselves progressive-minded but still impose centuries-old laws which are not relevant to the present world. This is something the left should look at doing.
Otherwise, their frustrations over Russia is nothing but double standards common with the left.