Winter Olympics shine light on Russian gay community

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Winter Olympics shine light on Russian gay community

by AFP Videos 2:31 mins

Winter Olympics shine light on Russian gay community

by AFP Videos 2:31 mins

SCRIPT: It's almost 2am and Jacqueline is preparing to go on stage. She's one of the stars of tonight's cabaret performance that here in Russia are hushed-up affairs. AMBIENT SOUND Mayak, is the gay club to go to in Sochi, the town that will host the Winter Olympics in February. SOUNDBITE 1 Andrei (man) Mayak owner (Russian, 12 sec): "Our club is a place where gay people can be themselves. They can kiss and dance together and no one will say anything or give them the finger." Mayak is a haven for gay people, but outside the club's four walls, the treatment of homosexuals in Russia is very different. 17-year-old Vladislav lives in Sochi, and when his peers discovered he was gay, his world changed dramatically. SOUNDBITE 2 Vladislav (man) 17-year old student(Russian, 25 sec): "They knew what time I got home in the evenings and so hid in the bushes. They threw stones at me and obviously hid their faces. They threw stones at me and shouted nationalist slogans.They insulted me and said I should die and burn in hell." After being beaten up, insulted and humilated, Vladislav enrolled in a Siberian school, where he’s completing his studies long distance. Vladislav's story reflects ingrained homophobia in Russia. Gay Pride is banned here and in June a law against gay propaganda was passed by President Vladimir Putin. During the Winter Olympics, sportsmen and women who display homosexual behaviour could be fined more than 2,000 euros or imprisoned for two weeks. The law, which is supposed to protect minors, provoked international outrage and even called for a boycott of the Games. But the International Olympic Committee says gay competitors won't be ostracised. SOUNDBITE 3 Jean-Claude Killy (man) Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014 (French, 20 sec): "The Olympic Charter states that any segregation is completely prohibited, whether racial, religious, or by skin colour or any other factor, on Olympic territory. And we are confident that this will be the case." It's unclear whether Russian officials will stick to this line- But it is certain that as the spotlight falls on Russia during February's Olympic Games, it will also cast a light on the shadows of Russia's treatment of homosexuals. ---------------------------------------------------------- SHOTLIST Sochi , Russia, October 9, 2013 (source: AFPTV ) - VAR Jacqueline and his counterpart getting ready in their dressing room before the show - VAR show - SOUNDBITE 1 - Andrei Tanitchev , owner of Mayak - VAR club - MS of a statue with a rainbow flag rainbow Sochi , Russia, October 8, 2013 (source: AFPTV ) - VAR Vladislav Slavski walking on a beach - SOUNDBITE 2 - Vladislav Slavski - VAR Vladislav Slavski looking at sea Moscow , Russia, June 11, 2013 (source: AFPTV ) - VAR clashes during a protest between pro and anti gay activists in front of the Duma -VAR of a wounded protester October 10, 2013 in Moscow, Russia (source: AFPTV ) - VAR of ceremony for the arrival of the Olympic flame on the Red Square July 31, 2013 New York (source : AFP ) - VAR of a demonstration against the law of "homosexual propaganda " in front of the Russian consulate September 26, 2013 Sochi , Russia (source: AFPTV ) - VAR conference after the last visit of the IOC in Sochi - CU the name Jean- Claude Killy - SOUNDBITE 3 - Jean- Claude Killy , Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014 Sochi , Russia, October 9, 2013 (source: AFPTV ) - VAR Jacqueline and his counterpart on stage /// --------------------------------------------------- AFP TEXT: Olympics: Sochi becomes rallying cause for gay rights activists Sochi (Russia) - 25 October 2013 - AFP (Benoit FINCK) To the surprise and displeasure of the Kremlin, the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi have become a rallying cause for the gay rights movement after Russia adopted a law slammed around the world as homophobic. Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed off on a law that bans the dissemination of so-called "gay propaganda" to minors which activists fear could be used for a broad crackdown on gays. The law was agreed amid increasingly conservative attitudes in Russian politics on moral issues as the country seeks to promote family values and reverse its long term population decline. But the global backlash against the law appeared to take the Kremlin by surprise as activists are making the Games in the Black Sea city the focal point of their anger 100 days before the start of the event. Hashtags like #boycottSochi have gained popularity on Twitter, British actor Stephen Fry called for Russia to be stripped of its right to host the Games and Russian officials are being forced to justify the law at every public appearance. This month 15 American and European athletes, including the former tennis star Andy Roddick, wrote an open letter to the new president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach asking for a clear positon on the issue. Russia has insisted there will be no discrimination at the Games against gays, saying that athletes and spectators of any sexuality are welcome to participate or visit Sochi. But officials have also warned that the law will not be suspended for Sochi, meaning that participants could in theory be fined or arrested for disseminating "gay propaganda" to minors. This could include telling a teenager it is perfectly normal to be gay or possibly even showing the rainbow stripes of the gay rights movement at any event attended by Russians under the age of 18. Russian officials prefer not to so much as utter the words "gay" or "homosexual" and instead prefer to describe the LGBT community as "people of a non-traditional sexual orientation". "We are seeking to protect minors -- and not just from propaganda of non-traditional relations but from many other things. Like, for example, drug use, alcoholism and smoking. From many bad habits," Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said in August. 'People should be aware of the discrimination' It remains to be seen what sort of protests athletes could make in Sochi against the laws. A handful of openly gay sportspeople like New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup will be competing. But even the smallest actions could unleash a furore -- at August's World Athletics Championships in Moscow Swedish high jumper Emma Green-Tregaro caused a huge controversy simply by painting her finger nails in the rainbow colours of the LGBT movement in the preliminary round. She then repainted them for the finals. "People should be aware of the discrimination, silencing of activists, and other human rights abuses that Russia isn't showcasing," said Jane Buchanan, associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch. The gay community in the city of 350,000 is discreet to say the least and unlikely to want to use the Olympics to highlight their cause. Even more than in Moscow, gay rights are off the political agenda in Sochi, where southern macho attitudes prevail. Sochi has just one major openly gay club whose owner Andrei Tanichev slammed the "idiotic law which gives a green light to the skinheads, nationalists and fascists" who want to commit homophobic attacks. In Russia, homosexuality was considered a crime until 1993 and classified as a mental illness up to 1999. The gay community still suffers from a negative attitude in society and repression from the authorities. Russian police have repeatedly broken up even the smallest gay rights protests in Moscow and Saint Petersburg with activists also having to suffer harassment from ultra-conservative protestors who seek to disrupt their actions. Nevertheless gay rights protests in Russia have never reached a mass scale, with even the anti-Kremlin opposition steering clear of the issue, while many Russian gays themselves prefer to keep a low profile. Russian lawmakers have meanwhile been mulling a new law that would deprive homosexuals with children of their parental rights -- a bill that had been scheduled for debate next February. The pro-Kremlin lawmaker who authored the bill retracted it after a global uproar but said he would reintroduce it after tweaking some of the wording. bfi-sjw/ma

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