Russia vs. Slovenia World Cup 2010 qualification match – Photo: Julia Novikova/soccer.ru
FARE, a network that advises FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, has issued warnings to LGBTQ soccer fans and people of color of the “danger” they could potentially face when Russia hosts the 2018 World Cup from June to July of next year.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993, shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union. But anti-gay sentiment is common in Russia and the Russian government has made moves to curb self-expression by passing a law prohibiting the dissemination of “propaganda” to minors. That means that any information that portrays homosexuality in a positive light or is glorifies non-traditional relationships or sexual mores is prohibited from being distributed or displayed, no matter what form it takes.
Reuters reports that a a recent study, released last week by the St. Petersburg-based Center for Independent Social Research, finds that the number of hate crimes has doubled in the years since the passage of the anti-gay “propaganda” law. The study analyzed 250 crimes, 200 of which were murders, but did not provide annual figures or comparison purposes. The study also alleged that the number of sentences for anti-LGBTQ hate crimes increased, going from 18 in 2010 to 65 in 2015. Most of the victims were gay men.
As reported by FOX Sports, FARE has promised to produce a guide spelling out the dangers that LGBTQ people could face if they travel to Russia for the World Cup. Piara Powar, the executive director of FARE, says it will advise LGBTQ people to be cautious and provide detailed explanations of the status of LGBTQ people in the country.
“It is not a crime to be gay but there is a law against the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Issues relating to the LGBT community are not part of the public discourse,” Powar said. “Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground.”
Powar notes that some British and German fans have raised questions about whether they’ll be allowed to display rainbow flags inside stadiums, but FIFA officials have not said whether stadium security will allow such displays.
FIFA diversity head Federico Addiechi told FOX Sports that he has not seen any request from fan groups regarding whether gay pride flags can be unfurled.
FARE has similar warnings for people of color, particularly black or ethnic minority fans, about potential dangers they could face in the country, noting that there is hostility towards people of color and has been a rise in far-right nationalism in Russia. At least 300 people affiliated with far-right extremist groups have already been banned from attending the World Cup, but that does not mean that other far-right supporters won’t attend or attempt to target people of color once they leave the confines of official sporting venues.
FIFA will have anti-discrimination observers at World Cup matches to monitor situations where racist incidents may occur throughout the months of June and July.
“The World Cup must be inclusive, respect human rights, must respect the rights of everyone including minorities,” Addiechi told FOX Sports. “We have the assurance from the Russian organizing committee and the Russian authorities that everyone will feel safe, comfortable and welcome in the country.”