Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or some equally hefty object) for quite some time, you probably know that 2014 was the year when the Olympic winter games went to Sochi, Russia. Now, Sochi was critiqued as the selected city for many reasons, ranging from climate to the current government. However, another large reason has become even more noticeable in the media lately: Russia’s laws regarding LGBTQ individuals.
In 2013, Russia passed a law banning the propagation of “non-traditional sexual relations” amongst minors. Now, I’m not sure about you, but that sounds pretty broad to me. Many points out that the bill was intentionally left open like this so as to allow it to be used whenever the government felt the urge.
This law sparked outrage internationally (obviously), as it essentially prohibited any sort of LGBTQ events, portrayal in media, “out” relationships, etc. As am I sure you all know, it went even further to include vigilante groups assaulting LGBTQ citizens across the country without ramification.
As the Olympics approached, huge pressures were put on Russia to change their ways, and focus shifted to gay athletes who would be competing in the games. Since they began, social media has been abuzz, and many groups are jumping to denounce Russia’s treatment of the LGBTQ community.
Now, I think all of this is wonderful. Such blatant disregard for basic human rights is nothing short of disgusting, and definitely needs to be addressed. But I have one question:
Why is everyone only getting upset now?
It really shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that homosexuality is still punishable by death in five countries. Not only that, but other nations such as Uganda have RECENTLY attempted to create new bills that would make homosexuality a death sentence. I’d also like to point out that if you include the countries with anti-gay laws that do not demand death, the number increases to be almost twenty times as high. Someone please remind me what year it is?
Now, as an anthropology student, I accept that we need to realize that these cultures are different from ours, and that we cannot simply change them to fit our Western ideals. However, this displays a clear example of institutionalized discrimination. Such acts are generally found to be unethical by international governing bodies and coalitions the world over.
So, where were all the angry people before the Olympics? Do we only care about the countries in the spotlight?
I really wish I could answer this question. I ask myself every time I see a new article about a violation of LGBTQ rights in a foreign country, and I ask myself every time someone yells “FAGGOT” out their car window as they drive by.
So, ask yourself this: do you care about human rights? If you do, then you need to act. Human rights aren’t limited to heterosexual, cisgendered, white males. Human rights belong to humanity, no matter who we are or where we live. I’m infinitely glad that such attention has been brought onto Russia’s cruel laws, but it’s time to get your act together. If you turn out to “fight” for gay rights once every blue moon, then you aren’t an advocate; you are an enabler.
It’s time to stop going with the flow and start swimming against the current. That, my friends, is activism. Once you’ve done that you can come tell me that you care, and then we can talk. And who knows? With you on board, maybe we can change the world.