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From Russia with hate

Has our leaders’ response to LGBT persecution in Russia been unacceptable?

By Alex Hopkins

As homophobia against Russian LGBT people continues to escalate, Time Out is supporting a second London protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws, scheduled tomorrow, just two days ahead of the G20 summit in St Petersburg.

Ideally David Cameron could use this opportunity to challenge Vladimir Putin about his draconian legislation which bans the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality and has led to a wave of tyranny against Russia’s LGBT community.

Despite the first protest outside Downing Street on August 11, Cameron has not yet outlined what practical steps the British government will take on the issues. Tweeting that he believes it is better if we attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, rather than boycott them, doesn’t seem likely to change Russian minds.

The response of the head of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge, is even less likely to work. Rogge, who steps down as president this month, initially appeared to dismiss Russia’s laws as merely a ‘translation issue’.

The IOC now says it is satisfied with a letter from the Russian government stating there will be no discrimination at the games, despite ongoing reports of attacks against LGBT Russians. Now is the time to ask the next IOC president to introduce protection of sexual orientation into the committee’s charter and ensure that future host countries adhere to human rights.

We should also seek clarification on the IOC’s suggestion that it could punish athletes who speak out against prejudice. With remarkable insensitivity it has said that any type of political ‘promotion’ – ironically the same word employed by Putin – will not be permitted at Sochi.

Courageous Swedish athletes at the World Championships in Moscow have already denounced the hatemongering by painting rainbows on their nails, only to be condemned by officials. It remains unclear what legal repercussions exist for competitors defending LGBT people in 2014.

By attending tonight’s protest you can add your voice to a call for more decisive action – a Pride House at Sochi and firmer guarantees from sports and political leaders. Come on, Prime Minister – it would be great if you really showed us what LGBT global rights mean to you.

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