Vladimir and The Big Bad Wolf.

The Sochi Winter Games are well under way, and Mr Putin’s appearance as a bare-chested moral crusader wearing his underpants over his lycra ski-pants has backfired on him to a greater extent than anyone could have ever imagined. President Obama was far from being alone in declining his invitation to the party, and even President Hollande waived the opportunity to try on one of those gay, rainbow-coloured track suit tops.

The world is now scrutinizing the Sochi games, and Internet is full of fun yet lucid messages such as this one from the Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion:

Some athletes sported rainbow-coloured accessories for the opening ceremony, and Google adopted the same colours for their home page, quoting the values of the Olympic Charter below it: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Values that Mr Putin immediately transgressed with a cool “welcome” to any gay visitors, requesting them to “leave the children in peace” during their visit, and refrain from “homosexual and pedophile propaganda”.

When inviting high-profile international athletes to your winter sporting event, telling them not to touch your kids probably isn’t the best ice-breaker to kick off your party. I have serious doubts that any athletes came to the Winter Games with the plan of converting Russia’s youth to anything at all – be it brussels sprouts or homosexuality – after years of intensive training for a unique opportunity to prove their sporting skills. However, by conflating homosexuals and pedophiles, Mr Putin has shown his true colours: 50 shades of darkness.

It’s not the first or the last time that a politician has used stories about the bogeyman to gain the support of the population. Your desire to “protect” Russia’s children from the big bad wolf of permissive society may be touching for some, but there are a few things that you seem to have forgotten in your haste to prove to the rest of the world what a good moral guardian you are. These have a much more direct impact on Russian children than foreign athletes who you believe could simultaneously promote their sexuality and ski down the Sochi slopes. 

So instead of scaring your kids with gay monster stories, I’d suggest sorting out a few other more pressing issues that have been pointed out by UNICEF and the world Health Organisation, among others.

Like child pornography and prostitution. Whilst you are barking up the wrong tree, children in Russia (and particularly migrant populations) are being exploited in organised prostitution. Whilst you point an accusing finger at your visitors, you forget that you have no current legislation condemning the simple possession of child pornography in your own country. 

Then there’s the human trafficking and child labour. In the child labour rankings, Russia sadly boasts the 69th place in a list of 197 countries exploiting children, and iconsidered to pose an “extreme risk” alongside China. According to the Maplecroft child labour index 2014, Russia is “lagging” in the battle against child labour and trafficking. The report describes the increasing presence of children working in shops, on construction sites and in agriculture, where they use dangerous machinery and harmful pesticides. 

Peter, Ivan and Sasha realize that they have c...

The arrival of international athletes at Sochi, told by uncle Vlad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Russia’s rates of infant, child and maternal mortality are among the highest in Eastern Europe, and the country has the highest incidence of AIDS after mainland Africa. HIV transmission is mainly fuelled by the heterosexual community, meaning that more and more children are being born to HIV–infected mothers.

Living conditions and education could do with some investment, too – Unicef describe a “dramatic increase in the number of children living on the streets or in institutions”, and deplore declining investments in national education, lowering school enrollment rates and preschool availability, falling school completion rates, and less opportunities for poor children in rural areas to access education.

Last but not least, over 650,000 Russian children are registered orphans, yet an estimated  66-95% of all of these children are considered social orphans, meaning that one or more of their birth parents are still alive. If the State believes there is a problem, they simply take custody of the child. Many of those with serious handicaps spend their childhood in orphanages, then get put into adult asylums. New laws are in the pipeline to remove children from their gay parents, irrelevant of whether they are well-cared for or not, potentially sending more children into orphanages when they have absolutely no need to be there.

Will the real big bad wolf please stand up?

“There is no monopoly in common sense

On either side of the political fence.

We share the same biology,

Regardless of ideology.

Believe me when I say to you

I hope the Russians love their children too.”



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To Russia With Love


Love (Photo credit: praram)

“There are a great many opinions in this world, and a good half of them are professed by people who have never been in trouble.”  

I wonder what Chekov would have made of the international outrage caused by his country’s behaviour recently. The Russian government has created a sorry buzz in the media as it openly brews up an anti-gay storm. It’s as if they were deliberately trying to goad the Western world into either boycotting the Olympic Winter games in Sochi or tacitly condoning their behaviour by attending.

On the 11th June 2013, the Russian Duma voted in Federal Law  No. 135-FZ. Behind this innocuous title is a law that puts a legal lid on any talk about homosexuality to under 18’s. It concerns the “Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development,” and makes it illegal to “spread information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual behaviour among children, suggesting this behaviour is attractive and making a false statement about the socially equal nature of traditional and non-traditional relationships“.

Strangely enough, whereas an impressive 137 hours of debate about the recent French bill for same-sex marriage resulted in 331 votes for and 225 against the bill, the Russian bid to hush-up homosexuality was voted in by a vote of 436… to zero. Only one brave (or eternally optimistic) person abstained, and probably rushed home to change the locks and adopt a family of pit bulls with titantium-tipped teeth. It’s enough to make you wonder if voters had been given the choice between a vote in favour of the proposal or a voucher for a free, unlimited stay in a Siberian salt mine.

Two hands holding

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lots of things could be said about this, but here are a few of MM’s musings. Apart from the “minor” issue of being openly discriminatory, the terminology of this law needs to be more precise. For example, to accuse someone of encouraging “non-traditional sexual behaviour,” you first have to define what traditional means. It conjures up the unpleasant image of Igor doing a preliminary Cossack dance with a rose clenched between his teeth, switching off the light and honouring a blushing Olga wearing full local dress. (That sentence was deliberately ambiguous. Who is wearing the local dress? It could be Olga or Igor. Who cares, and who would know anyway? The light’s out.) I would therefore recommend either a public referendum on the subject, or calling in some international political colleagues with hands-on experience (I believe that France and Italy both have one) to help them with this difficult task.

The Duma also seem to have overlooked the fact that this law (no doubt unintentionally) states that homosexuals are not the social equals of citizens in “traditional” relationships. They should correct this, as I’m sure they don’t want small-minded citizens to see it as official permission to beat up their neighbour. I’m also flummoxed about why anyone would spend their time trying to “recruit” for the gay cause – what do they think gay people are, sales reps? If you want a law to protect the health and development of Russian children, ban vodka and fast food, not freedom of speech.

In for a penny, in for a pound, another law is in the Kremlin pipeline, giving Russian authorities the right to withdraw children from their parents if one of them is gay. Having gay parents is not good for children and could influence them to become gay when they grow up, they claim. That would be logical, except being brought up by straight parents doesn’t necessarily make you straight. I may be naïve, but I’d like to understand what the problem is if someone does grow up to be gay.

Rainbow Bot

Photo credit: Jenn and Tony Bot

So some Russians are gay? Whoopee. Get over it, and move on. A gay person is no more dangerous to you or your children than any other person you pass on the street. Being gay is not contagious, a fad, a fashion, or a “phase” someone is going through. Nor is it a choice: who would choose to experience intimidation (or much worse) on a regular basis?

These moral crusaders are touchingly convinced that their own offspring will not become victims of the suffocating, intolerant world they are creating for them. So think about it.  Set the example for future generations. Dare to think outside the box. I’m going to stop ranting now – I’m off to check that nobody is hovering around outside my house with a suspiciously pointy umbrella.