July 31, 2013

Toronto: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) set a precedent on human rights in sport when it banned South Africa from participating in the Olympics in 1964, to protect the Games from racial discrimination. Why then is it refusing to take action now when the rights of LGBT people are under threat?

The IOC states that the “Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course the athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.”

But Russian legislator Vitaly Mionov said yesterday that the Russian government will not be suspending its anti-gay legislation in advance of the 2014 Games. Although the IOC has claimed that the draconian legislation will not affect spectators or athletes, it remains unclear whether the Russian government will actually enforce anti-gay laws against those attending the Games.

“The International Olympic Committee cannot continue to ignore homophobic and transphobic discrimination” declared Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. “When countries that imprison or even execute citizens based on their sexual orientation are allowed to participate, and even host the Games, the Olympics aren’t open to LGBT people. Egale calls on the IOC to take immediate action to ban all countries that criminalize citizens based on sexual orientation.”

Currently 81 countries that criminalize homosexuality and 7 that impose the death penalty for homosexuality participate in the Summer Games. Two countries that criminalize homosexuality and several more with discriminatory policies participate in the Winter Games. Many of these countries also participate in the FIFA World Cup. In 2018, the FIFA World Cup, which also banned South Africa in 1964, will take place in Russia.

While the Constitution of the Paralympic Games already forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Olympic Charter does not. The IOC must take action now to add protection based on sexual orientation to its Charter, in order to ensure that all future Games are inclusive to all people.

Egale Canada Human Rights Trust (ECHRT) is Canada’s only national charity promoting LGBT human rights through research, education and community engagement.

For more information:
Helen Kennedy, Executive Director, 416-270-1999/416-964-7887 ext. 21