SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Russia's stance toward LGBT rights has been checkered and tenuous throughout its history. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the new Russian Federation decriminalized male homosexual acts in 1993, but laws protecting people against discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation remain nonexistent. Same sex unions are also unrecognized in the country. In June 2013, Russia took another step backward in defending and promoting the rights of gays by passing a federal bill that bans the distribution of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, using heavy fines, threats of imprisonment and overly broad interpretations to punish violators. The new law, signed by President Vladimir Putin, will be enforced during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The announcement provoked outcry from athletes around the world. On Thursday, the situation soured further when the Russian Sports Ministry declared its refusal to allow a series of traditional events at the competition.
Homophobia in Russia ranks among the worst in the western world, and the level of intolerance has continued to escalate. The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church called same-sex unions "a portent of doom." A large number of Russian women agree and support the anti-gay law. Sociologists say the reasoning is the same.
"There's a very small percentage of well-dressed, attractive and well-to-do men in Russia," explained Janus Heuchler, head sociologist at San Narciso's Poeslaw Institute for Social Research and Development (PISRAD). "Those men are vital to maintaining the population of Russia. Those are the men Russian women are willing to lie down with. Unfortunately, the vast majority of that group identify themselves as gay."
Although the law does not criminalize homosexuality once again, it ambiguously penalizes individuals who publicize any aspect of, or allusion to, "non-traditional sexual relations" in a manner that could be observed by minors.
"It's also very likely that Mr. Putin, his cabinet, the leaders of the Orthodox Church and other conspicuously homophobic government officials in Russia, who protest to suspiciously extreme lengths, are afraid their own latent tendencies may be exposed on Facebook or Instagram," Heuchler added.
With the wave of protests from Olympic contenders around the globe, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko assured the International Olympic Committee that the law would not apply to visiting athletes themselves, only their friends, families, fans, coaches and any person in attendance who criticizes the anti-gay statute or does anything "outwardly gay." During an August 8 press conference, Mutko's advice to non-participants was to "calm down."
"We understand the Olympics were created by Greeks, who also created gay sex and bestiality and a very gay type of yogurt, so we are not going to enforce our law on the athletes," he stated. "Doing gay things is probably a part of the games themselves, by design."
But Mutko roiled the waters again Thursday by striking several events from the roster, "as a precaution."
Figure skating and freestyle skiing were the first games eliminated. Mutko cited "obvious reasons" for the decision. Curling and bobsleigh were also scratched.
"Curling is what women do to their hairs when they are allowed to leave the house. It's also a sport where men perform household chores like sweeping and mopping the floors, which is a woman's work," Mutko said. "Making a man like a woman is propagandizing gay lifestyles where children could see."
He added that "bobsledding looks too much like a film President Putin showed me during one of his 'Bob Crane Movie Nights,' where we are forced to watch gay man porn for hours to understand how evil it is. I have seen four men sitting together as in a bobsled during these movies, so no sleigh rides in Sochi."
Athletes slated to participate in the list of recently banned "gay propaganda sports" may still attend the 2014 Winter Olympics, but they will be permitted to compete only in a revised version of the biathlon, which Mutko described as "a contingent of manly men and hardy women who ride down the gays on skis and then shoot at them."
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