The news about Russia and its legislation that now bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors” with severe punishments for anyone who infringes on this draconian law, has been making headlines, and rightly so. With all the progress the world has made regarding gay rights for something like this to be passed in this day and age is so horrendously wrong that people should be talking about it. However, there have been two things that have really got to me regarding this legislation; firstly, the reaction of the International Olympic Committee and secondly, the boycotting of Russian vodka, Stolichnaya.
|It's all fun and games in Russia|
I have never been a fan of the Olympics. I have always seen them as being hypocritical in what they stand for with their claims about solidarity and uniting countries, yet it’s always about winning and who has the most medals. With the laws that Russia has just passed, it is now time for the IOC to take a stand and prove what the Olympics stand for. Instead they release a since proven erroneous statement that they have "received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia" that these laws that violate human rights "will not affect those attending or taking part in the games". Because that makes it all right does it? Out of sight out of mind? It is reminiscent of the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. The Nazi party might not have been in at its peak back then and communication to the masses would have been a lot more difficult so I can see somehow understand (but not accept) how they would have still permitted the games to be held there, but with all the facts we have at hand about what is happening in Russia, it is unfathomable that the IOC can sit back and implicitly say ‘we don’t give a shit about human rights, just as long as the games go ahead”. The last time the games were cancelled was in 1940 and I can understand the importance of the games (even if I don’t agree with them) but find me anyone who is a supporter of human rights who would not agree with cancelling the games if Russia does not wake up to itself? Yes it’s an extreme reaction but this is an extreme discriminatory law. Forget about gay marriage for a second and remember that this law permits someone to be jailed for even discussing homosexuality with minors.
|The homepage of Stolichnaya|
But if the IOC won’t do anything, at least the gay clubs will. Some of the biggest gay clubs in America, Canada, England and Australia - including The Laird in Melbourne and Gay Bar in Sydney, have begun boycotting Russian vodka - in particular Stolichnaya. Individuals have also chosen to no longer purchase the Russian brand as their drink of choice. Bravo! Bravo indeed! Let’s stop consuming a drink that obviously has Russian ties but whose headquarters are not even based in Russia (they’re in Luxembourg) and have no effect on the actual Government itself. Even the CEO of Stoli’s parent company SPI Group, Val Mendeleev, has issued an open letter to the LGBT community, in which he speaks of being a “fervent supporter and friend” of the gay community. Yes, it is raising awareness about the issue but it is not doing anything for the cause. It’s this “bedroom activism” that really infuriates me. If people really wanted to take a stand against this they would stop using/purchasing products that Russia exports. In 2007, Petroleum products comprised over half of Russian exports to the U.S. while iron, steel and railway equipment are the fastest growing imports into Russia from America. If we put a stop on such trade in response to Russia’s heinous legislation then this would actually have an effect on the country. Of course, this would require people to actually make some sort of sacrifice rather than getting on their morality horse by limiting their alcohol intake. Not drinking Stolichnaya vodka because of Russia’s gay laws is the same thing as “liking” a page on Facebook to end world hunger.
We – in Australia – are up in arms about the fact that we still don’t have legal marriage for all gay people. We think this is abhorrent and extremely discriminatory, but on the flipside, I am so relieved that we can openly hold hands, kiss and discuss homosexuality without fear of retribution. Yes we can’t get married (yet) but at least we don’t have the fear of going to jail or being murdered for being who we are. For this reason, it is imperative that the IOC and world leaders make a stand to Russia that this is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
|Tilda Swinton posing with the rainbow flag in Russia|