Sending homosexual delegates to Sochi doesn't begin to address Russia's gay rights crisis

Barack Obama gravely overlooks the unfolding HIV epidemic in Russia

Share
Related Topics

Three cheers for the infinite wisdom of US presidents. Bravely crusading against Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay law, the US head of state has picked two openly gay athletes as part of a team of US delegates travelling to the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. Ex-tennis star Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow will travel to the coast of the Black Sea, while Obama himself will stay at home. Neither – unusually – will his wife, the vice-president or any former president attend.

Sadly, it is a gesture of defiance laughably incommensurate with the human rights crisis currently unfolding in Russia. The country elected to host the next Olympic Games is quietly spiralling into a country-wide HIV epidemic and its president’s recently passed anti-gay legislation has just made things exponentially worse. Talking to young Russians about HIV  – and therefore taking steps to prevent its proliferation – is now illegal. That is especially troubling when you consider the claim of Robert Heimer, an epidemiologist at Yale, who says as many as five per cent of all young people in Russia are infected with the virus. And meanwhile, rather than deigning to admit or address the problem, the international community has just congratulated itself for sending two gay athletes to a country putting a substantial percentage of its male homosexual community at peril through wilful negligence. People hold a placard and rainbow flags as they call on the Russian authorities to lift anti-gay laws ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympics during a protest People hold a placard and rainbow flags as they call on the Russian authorities to lift anti-gay laws ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympics during a protest

The statistics demand attention. Figures from the World Bank estimate that by 2020 as many as 20,000 Russians will be dying a month from AIDS. HIV is spreading five times faster in Russia than the global average. When Putin came to power in 2000 there were 100,000 recorded cases of HIV in Russia. Now there are 1.2 million, and Yale University estimates that figure is a gross underestimation – reckoning the actual figure to be closer to 2 or 3 million.

As Russia-specialist Ben Judah has expertly pointed out: given the circumstances, Vladimir Putin’s controversial legislation is not just a homophobic law, but a murderous law. In a country where HIV is already rampant, and predicted to get worse, the Putin administration has ensured that it is considerably harder for Russian citizens to know how to protect themselves from the virus, or indeed how to seek treatment. And Putin is helped by the state controlled news agency. To see what the channel's head anchor thinks about gay rights, watch him speak here:

To make matters worse, Putin’s controversial anti-NGO law has made it increasingly difficult for charities working within Russia to fight HIV. Dozens of AIDS clinics operating in Russia are now under threat. The anti-NGO law has the power to brand charities as foreign agents, subsequently drown them in paperwork, and ultimately threaten to close them down. And the double demonization of homosexuals and NGOs has had instant ramifications. In November masked gunmen reportedly broke into an HIV clinic in St. Petersburg during broad daylight, shooting one man in the face and beating a young woman with a baseball bat. When Russian police arrived, they apparently said they could found no evidence of a crime.

Neither should it come as a surprise, too, thatin 2013 the Russian budget for AIDS prevention was cut in half, from 400 million ($12 million) to 200 million rubles ($6 million) - apparently for ideological reasons.

The figures and the anecdotal evidence are in agreement: Russia is facing a human rights catastrophe with has the potential of becoming a quiet genocide as a result of government indifference.

All of which renders the United States’ boast of a homosexual envoy to next year’s Olympics the soft power swindle of the year. It is an announcement which trumpets the pretence of action, where instead a boycott or meaningful international discussion is called for. The long-held belief that the Olympics are an apolitical affair or an opportunity for a free pass to political apathy is a fallacy. In 1964 South Africa was banned from the competition for apartheid and the country did not compete again until the 1992 Barcelona Games. Now is the time for similar decisive action.

Obama forces a smile at the G20 with Vladimir Putin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing