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Winter-olympics: The Nonsense Used to Justify Bigotry

The poster seemed innocuous enough: "Homosexuality is not perversion. Grass hockey and ballet are." Dancers and hockey players of the world appeared unfazed. But local police officers in St. Petersburg, Russia took umbrage, apprehending the solo demonstrator as he picketed peacefully within view of a local children's library. He was charged and convicted under the region's nebulous – and increasingly legislated – "propaganda" of homosexuality law.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

25th August 2013 06:34

Alessia Valenza

By Drew F. Cohen (Drew F. Cohen is a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa). 
August 14, 2013

The new law, which the Russian Supreme Court upheld last year, makes it an offense to engage in any "propaganda of (or public activities promoting) sodomy, lesbianism [and] bisexuality…to minors" including any information that promotes a "distorted perception of social equality of a traditional and non-traditional marital relationship."

As Russia prepares to host the 2014 Winter Games, its president, Vladimir V. Putin, has come under fire from international human rights lawyers after signing a host of anti-gay bills last month. Although the new laws are invidiously far ranging – i.e. placing restrictions on gay couples ability to adopt Russian-born children to allowing police officers to detain tourists for up to 14 days on suspicion of being "pro-gay" – it was Putin’s endorsement of a country-wide ban on homosexual propaganda that marked the most worrisome retrenchment for human rights activists by sending a strong, go-ahead signal to other countries debating similar provisions.

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