Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s plenipotentiary for human rights, was addressing the International Human Rights Forum in Beijing, when he commented on the attitudes of Western countries towards LGBT people:
“We cannot but be concerned about the aspiration of the Western countries to impose their neo-liberal values as a universal basis for life-sustaining activity on other members of the international community. This is particularly evident in the case of their aggressive promotion of the sexual minorities’ rights. Attempts have being made to enforce on other countries an alien view of homosexuality and same-sex marriages as a norm of life and some kind of a natural social phenomenon that deserves support at the state level. Such an approach encounters resistance not only in the countries upholding traditional values, but also in those countries which have always taken a liberal attitude towards queers. Suffice it to recall the protest reaction of a major part of the French society to the decision on legalization of same-sex marriages in the country.”
RT reports that Dolgov emphasised during his speech that the West’s attempts to force other nations into accepting homosexuality and same-sex marriage cannot be tolerated. Ironically, Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, which means that officially, the country has technically ‘accepted’ homosexuality for the past twenty years. Recent homophobic legislation passed by the Russian State Duma, however, belies the sentiment behind the 1993 decriminalisation. Also, it should be pointed out that no Western country is attempting to “enforce” Russia to adopt same-sex marriage, merely to repeal their ‘gay propaganda’ laws.
Dolgov was quick to refer to events in Western countries which supported the diplomat’s sentiments, such as the thousands of people in Paris who protested earlier this year against France’s introduction of same-sex marriage. According to a poll carried out by the Levada Center, Russia’s major public opinion organisations, 85% of Russians were strongly against same-sex marriage – a 9% increase since 2010 – while 87% disapproved of the idea of LGBT Pride events. Dolgov, keen to point out the flaws of the Western nations, also criticised the Americans for their recent negligence of human rights, mentioning the recent Manning case:
“…when the U.S. interests are affected, the American judicial system, as in the case of Bradley Manning’s 35-year sentence, takes unjustifiably harsh decisions according to the so-that-it-doesn’t-become-a-habit principle without any consideration of human rights aspects. In this regard, it should be noted that according to many human rights organizations, including American ones, information disclosed by Bradley Manning has revealed numerous abuses on the part of the U.S. Army during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including casualties among civilians, torturing of detainees, as well as other gross violations of international law related to human rights.”
As the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics draw closer, it seems that the social and economic controversies surrounding the major sporting event are concerning both the Russian authorities and the International Olympic Committee. Mixed messages are coming from the IOC’s press office, ensuring at one point that anti-gay laws will not affect visitors and athletes, only to be contradicted both internally and by Russian politicians at a later point. This has created an atmosphere of insecurity amongst the Games’ main sponsors, including Coca-Cola, General Electric, Samsung, Panasonic and McDonalds. A ban on political protesting at Sochi has been implemented ahead of the games, although this has not stopped the debate online and via Western media.
Meanwhile, the head of the Sochi Games had officially requested that the IOC help “to stop this campaign and this speculation” against Russia’s anti-gay legislation, while at the same time, President Vladimir Putin has remained adamant that there is “no discrimination at all” taking place against LGBT people in his country.