silent flows the river don

russia-moscow-gay-pride-riot-ru192323This is a warning for visitors and tourists wanting to travel to Russia. Anything considered pro-gay, from gay-affirmative speech to gays holding hands in public to wearing rainbow suspenders is now illegal. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law on Monday one of the most draconian anti-gay laws on the planet. Ironically the new law comes just seven months before Russia is set to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi, expecting visitors and tourists from around the world. Additionally, the law has a provision permitting the government to arrest and detain gay, or pro-gay, foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from the country. It is now literally illegal in Russia to say that you are gay. It is illegal to kiss your partner in public – say, after you win a gold medal. It is illegal for a gay athlete to wear the rainbow flag. Or even to acknowledge during an interview that they are gay – or for the foreign press to acknowledge it – unless they mention gay sexual orientation in a negative way. Then there’s the seemingly officially sanctioned violence against gay, bisexual and transgendered people in Russia. It’s been made clear for years now that the Russian government will turn a blind eye towards anti-gay violence, and many have alleged that the Russian government is actually behind such violence. Will gay Olympic athletes and gay Olympic fans be targeted for violence while in Russia? No one knows. What we do know is that the International Olympic Committee’s response to the growing threat of violence against gay athletes and gay Olympics fans has been rather anemic to date. The IOC’s response has been so weak that Human Rights Watch recently sent the Olympic Committee a rather scathing letter demanding that the IOC take action to enforce their own charter, which bans discrimination. Activists are demanding cities like Los Angeles, Quebec and Paris should drop, or suspend, their Sister City relationships with Russian cities. More importantly, anyone thinking of attending the Olympics in Russia, should think twice about the message they’re sending to a country that appears to be rapidly sinking into its old authoritarian ways. Uncle Joe might be a distant memory to many contemporary Russians, but the countenance of Uncle Vlad is eerily familiar.

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