Homophobia Olympics in the Former Soviet Union

May 24, 2012

LGBT Rights in Russia
Russian police detain a gay rights activists during an attempt to hold an unauthorized rally in central Moscow. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

In the sporting world, countries from the former Soviet Union are used to winning medals. But in terms of gay rights, the only accolades these countries are winning are the wrong ones.

olympic medalsShort of outright criminalizing homosexuality as was the norm during Soviet times, Russia and most of its former satellite states are increasingly violating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. If a 2012 Eurasia Homophobia Olympics were held today, the “winning” countries trampling on the human rights of LGBTI people would be as follows:

Gold Medal: Armenia, for officially (and utterly shockingly) justifying and defending the firebombing of a gay-friendly bar by self-described young “fascists.”

Silver Medal: The Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for continuing to treat homosexuality (among men) as a crime.

Silver Medal: Belarus, for its authoritarian president’s sinister statement that it’s “better to be a dictator than gay.”

Silver Medal: Russia and Moldova, for making it a crime to spread “homosexual propaganda” (aka organize any public LGBTI event) in several regions and cities, most recently in Russia’s second largest city of Saint Petersburg.

Bronze: Georgia, for not protecting gay marchers from angry counter-protesters, including Orthodox priests, and Ukraine, for failing to stop ultra-right hooligans from putting LGBTI activists at risk and marring the capital’s first-ever Pride parade.

No medals for the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, in part, because their competitors are overachievers.

No medals for Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. That’s far from a compliment, as LGBTI communities in these countries are so marginalized that there aren’t as many opportunities to publicly violate their human rights as in some of the medal-winning countries.

In lieu of medals and certificates, all participating governments will receive a copy of the Amnesty International Annual State of the World Report 2012, releasing today, where their previous award-winning human rights violations are documented.