The Rainbow Curtain: Russia, LGBT Rights and the Winter Olympics

Jasmine Andersson

If Jasmine Andersson can’t be found scoffing a bag of crisps while laughing at the latest YouTube viral animal video, she’ll probably be writing about news and music for lifestyle magazines. Described as a "staunch, left-wing feminist" by her university newspaper two years ago, Jasmine has been using the same words to describe herself ever since.

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First coming into contact with Putin’s idiocy in his re-election, observers recorded him happily using bikini-clad women to promote his campaign. Smirking as his promo girls posed alongside him and took a break from their car washing duties, Putin’s tactics were proven to be as slimy and objectifying as his electoral figures. Despite a suspected fraudulent election securing his third term as Prime Minister, the puppeteer rose again in 2012, stretching the definition of democracy and human rights in his wake.

Russia’s LGBT barbarism over the past year is enough to make the most fervent traditionalist quake. Whilst Britain has celebrated the passing of equal marriage and the biggest gay Pride celebrations to date, the Russian administration is a molotov cocktail of tyranny. Now the spotlight shines on Russia’s anti-gay measures. The horrifying beliefs of the country’s most prominent voices have greeted the general public’s ears. In the past fortnight alone, talk show host Dmitry Kiselyov has suggested that the hearts of dead homosexuals should be burnt in Vampire-esque vitriol, whilst MP and Vlad’s right hand man Vitaly Milonov has denounced Stephen Fry’s impassioned campaign for the British government to boycott the winter Olympics in Sochi on the basis of his mental health struggles, furthermore suggesting that homosexual acts are on par with bestiality. Even more disturbingly, Russia’s flagship sportswoman Yelena Isinbayeva has brought Russia’s anti-gay laws into the legitimacy of the international sporting arena through voicing her stance. In the same statement, the gold medallist voiced her support for the ban on “pro-gay” propaganda, which serves to “protect” those under the age of 18. These are endless clauses, endless nightmares, which only allow the most public of bigots a chance to speak.

Amidst the senseless beatings and muffled cries, there lies a beacon – the Olympic torch. As Russia’s Black Sea resort Sochi prepares to host 2014’s winter Olympic games, a spotlight shines on the Eastern European state, magnifying the action of United Russia, the country’s media ploys, and the hate speech mouthpieces that disguise themselves as national treasures. As the unity of the Olympic fervour jars with Russia’s draconian administration, veteran broadcaster and national treasure Stephen Fry has leapt forward to campaign against six-pack Vlad and his delusional cronies.

As his open letter pleaded for Cameron and the IOC’s backing, David offered a sentiment of dismay without any suggestion of action. “Thank you for your note @stephenfry,” the Prime Minister wrote on Twitter. “I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia … However, I believe we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than boycott the Winter Olympics.” Cameron’s remarks demonstrate that the global battle of good vs. evil is not purely black and white, but a rainbow of refractions: humans rights issues become entangled with oil concerns, valuable trade links and economic benefits. In claiming that Britons can rise above Russia’s homophobia, the Conservative party also lend their stance to a time-old teaching: watching the bully torment their prey leads to shared responsibility.

Although the Russian administration are expressing heart-wrenching bigotry, the Western world has united to fight against anti-gay laws. Allout.org’s demand that Russia’s “gay propaganda laws” and that the IOC condemn Russia’s anti-gay actions has accrued 320,000 signatures, as well as achieving several comments from the governing board themselves. Although frustratingly reliant on United Russia’s concerns that “the laws will not affect participants,” the board is said to be “taking the matter very seriously” and has reinstated that “that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation.”

While the IOC consider their official position, a global fight against discrimination is gaining momentum. Louise Hazel has called for Isinbayeva to be stripped of her medals for her anti-gay comments, and posters across the globe are mocking Putin in a way that their own citizens can’t – by placing a rainbow moustache rather alike a famous dictator above his lip. At Stockholm’s Russian embassy, a protester is also making use of the rainbow symbol, transforming a zebra crossing outside of the building with colourful explosion. At ground level, members of the public are boycotting Russian imported goods, as well as the games’s sponsors Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Panasonic, Visa, Omega and Samsung, to name a few.

As Fry acutely noted the resonance of Berlin 1936,  action is needed to ensure that the fight against discrimination doesn’t just lay in the hands of this year’s Jesse Owens. Before our sportsmen and women even arrive in Sochi, a non-discriminatory environment can be created, allowing our Olympians not only to voice their sexuality without fear of punishment, but the tapestry of Russia to be altered by the Rainbow Curtain, bringing hope to suffering LGBT victims who struggle amidst the brutality, determined to make the rain stop.