Lifestyle & Belief

Putin promises no anti-gay discrimination in Sochi Olympics


Protestors hold images of Russian President Vladimir Putin wearing lipstick during a protest against Russian anti-gay laws opposite the Russian embassy on Aug. 23, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.


Denis Doyle

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed homosexuals will not suffer discrimination in his country during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, despite a new law that bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations."

Protestors have demanded the boycott or cancellation of the upcoming games, and while that's not going to happen, the Olympics will test the government's new law and its will to enforce it under the focused gaze of millions.

Late Tuesday, in an interview with the Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television, Putin sought to ease international concerns.

A question some have asked is: What if an athlete waves a rainbow flag? Would he or she punished or somehow discriminated against? 

"I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields," Putin said.

"I can assure you that during the Olympics or any other major sports events, Russia will strictly stick to the Olympic principles which forbid any kind of discrimination of people on any basis," Putin added.

The law in question, which Putin signed earlier this year, made it illegal to expose children to so-called homosexual propaganda that shows gay relationships as healthy, happy and normal. The law gives authorities the right to hand out fines or jail citizens for a maximum of 15 days. Foreigners can be deported.

When asked if the law will be enforced during the Winter Olympics, Putin said, “There will be no negative consequences, I hope.” 

Russia's Interior Ministry gave a more solid answer on Monday, saying the controversial anti-gay law will be enforced during the games. 

"The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully," read an Interior Ministry statement