“We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships … We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia. I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things – a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing. We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations … You can feel relaxed and calm [in Russia], but leave children alone please.”
Since Russia’s Putin-supported anti-gay propaganda law passed last year, a significant increase in violent attacks upon homosexuals has been widely reported.
In a bizarre exchange with reporters, Putin also claimed that some countries are currently attempting to legalize paedophilia. When asked to identify those countries, Putin demurred, saying it was easy to find out on the internet.
Many activists have called for a general boycott of the games, withdrawal by major advertisers, or pressure from the international community intended to pressure Russia into discarding its legal discrimination against gay people. These arguments have largely been unheeded, although the Olympic Charter states quite clearly that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”
The Olympic Games kick off in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.
Joe Delmonaco is a freelance writer living in New York City.