With Russia hosting this year’s FIFA World Cup, there has been a lot of controversy and contention in response to Russia’s oppressive laws against openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. While these laws have been on the books for years, even inspiring a boycott movement from the 2014 Winter Olympics. This year, with more prominence than ever with the 2018 World Cup. LGBTQ+ Soccer Fans and people in Russia, more than ever, are fearing prosecution for being LGBTQ+.
Unfortunately, this is the beginning as the 2022 World Cup is set to be hosted in Qatar, which has gone so far as to declare homosexuality to be completely illegal. This is a major misstep on the part of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) on their supposed “Human Rights” Policy which includes a pledge to protect against discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.
Despite the fears of prosecution, LGBTQ+ soccer fans are making their way to Russia to support their favorite teams competing at the World Cup. Unfortunately, even on and before the first day, the homophobic culture in Russia is rearing its ugly head, even more so than at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Already a few, terrifying, incidents have occurred, and I hope FIFA is paying attention.
- A French Gay Couple attending a match was brutally attacked and robbed in St. Petersberg by two assailants when trying to catch a cab. One of the victims was taken to the hospital with a severe head injury and broken jaw.
- An activist, protesting the genocide of gay people in Chechnya, was arrested in Moscow on the opening day of the World Cup.
- Volunteer militia unit is patrolling World Cup events to harass and report any same sex couples who might be kissing or showing other forms of same sex public displays of affection.
Unfortunately, this is only the beginning, we are likely to see more incidents and assaults against gay and lesbian World Cup fans as the tournament continues, however that doesn’t mean LGBTQ+ activists aren’t staying silent either.
- A Russian, pro-LGBTQ+ organization called “Coming Out” has launched their “World Cup Hotline” which includes phone numbers and email addresses for any LGBTQ+ people in St. Petersburg, who have faced discrimination during World Cup events and will be documenting all incidents. The Hotline will only be active June 14th-July 15th during the World Cup.
- The Russian LGBT Sport Federation is making their presence known and showing their Pride at all the World Cup events. Their President courageously displayed the rainbow flag in the audience at the opening ceremonies during Vladimir Putin’s welcome speech.
If FIFA is really serious about its’ “Human Rights Policy” it will do everything in its power to ensure that LGBTQ+ fans and athletes are safe at the World Cup and to ensure that no more anti-LGBTQ incidents take place at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. It will also need to do more to hold its host cities accountable for their human rights violations and ensure that the future selection process includes clauses that protect LGBTQ+ people from such oppressive laws and discrimination.
Happy World Cup, Soccer Fans!
By Dirk Smith