Like many other people we watched the documentary Hunted and were appalled and outraged by what is happening in a civilised country in 2014. LGBT people are persecuted, vilified, attacked and discriminated against on a daily basis in Russia. They live in fear of being beaten and humiliated whenever they leave the house. They could lose their jobs, have their children removed by the state or be imprisoned for taking a stand and protesting about their basic human rights.
Over the last 15 years In the UK homophobia has becoming more and more marginalised. The removal of draconian legislation such as the abhorrent Section 28 and the recognition of hate crimes against LGBT people have been positive steps. As well as the passing of civil partnership legislation and the recent gay marriage bill. Gay pride events and literature such as Stonewalls “Some people are gay: get over it” campaign have been instrumental in the process of acceptance. As a lesbian couple we might get the odd thing shouted at us in the street or have to deal with something uncomfortable in the work place, but on the whole our experience has been positive. We take comfort in the fact that if our human rights are breached, there are laws in place to protect us.
When we travel to different countries we are mindful of the laws and attitudes affecting LGBT people. We asses how safe it will be for us to be open about our relationship and sexuality. Should we say we are married? Can we hold hands in public? Should we wear more make up? Dress differently? Book a twin room? Pretend to be sisters? Or simply not go. We weigh up the information with how much we really want to visit the country. As gay women we know there is much more to us than our sexuality. With this in mind we know there is much more to a country that its LGBT rights record. However we will not put ourselves in danger.
Many LGBT people will travel to Russia for the Olympics; athletes, sports presenters and fans. The Russia we will see during the games will, no doubt be very different form the one shown in the documentary, as the government show the world a positive Soviet spin. The parallels to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games are endless. With that in mind, every free thinking person should do their utmost to ensure Russia does not become the new Third Reich and LGBT people the new Jews. Despite what the Daily Mail say, asylum should be offered in the UK and other nations to LGBT Russians who are living in fear following the erosion of their rights. They too should have the opportunity to love and be loved in a free society.
Companies and organisations are standing up to Russia with a variety of statements. On the opening day of the Games, Google chose to change its image to a rainbow flag and a quote from the Olympic Charter in support of LGBT rights. This was the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion response and above all, our favourite:
So, why wont the Wandering Wives be wandering to Russia? Yes it has homophobic laws and discriminates against its LGBT citizens, but many other LGBT people are to visit for the Olympics. The real reason we wont be going is the weather! It is -4 in Moscow. We hate winter nearly as much as we hate discrimination. So we will pass the frosty reception and continue our search for sunshine and tolerance in this wonderful world.
Would you visit Russia? Where else has a bad LGBT rights reputation? Have you experienced homophobia whilst traveling? Which countries are the most welcoming?