Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has reiterated his stance opposing recently introduced anti-gay laws in Russia, and saying it is “worrying and depressing”, that LGBT rights in Russia are receding.
Mr Clegg reinforced what he said last month in an interview with PinkNews, when he said: “It is just totally out of order it is unacceptable in this day and age for any athlete to feel in any way intimidated or certainly to be discriminated against because of their sexuality.”
Speaking to PinkNews today, a spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “At a time when many countries around the world are making incredible steps forward for equality, it’s worrying and depressing that Russia can take such a step backward.
“The world spotlight is now on Russia, and the government is working with the IOC to ensure the games are free from discrimination. But this is also an issue much wider than the Olympic Games. There are horrific stories of abuse, brutality and discrimination that should not be tolerated.
“As Nick Clegg has said before, it is totally unacceptable for anyone to feel intimidated or discriminated against because of their sexuality.
“Those days should be long behind us now and those governments and regimes who don’t see it that way have to move with the times.”
The 2014 Winter Olympics takes place in the Russian city of Sochi in February.
Concerns have been expressed by human rights organisations over the deteriorating situation for LGBT people in Russia, and some have called for a boycott of the Games.
It’s feared that the authorities in Sochi may seek to arrest, deport or possibly fine LGBT athletes if they are deemed to be “promoting” LGBT expression.
Pride House, an Olympic LGBT event, has already been banned from the Winter Olympics by the Russian Ministry of Justice.
The arrival of draconian homophobic censorship laws has been coupled with an increase in homophobic attacks and killings.
Earlier today Simon Kirby, the Tory MP for Brighton Kemptown and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Sport and Tourism, urged Foreign Secretary William Hague to “lead in the international condemnation of the Russian Government’s treatment of LGBT people.”
Following Stephen Fry’s open letter to David Cameron on Wednesday, in which he urged the Prime Minister and the IOC to strip Russia of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the government responded by saying it was working closely with organisers to ensure the Games were free from discrimination.
Prime Minister David Cameron has so far not commented publicly on the matter, but US President Obama spoke out against anti-gay legislation in Russia on NBC’s Tonight Show on Tuesday.
He said he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk on Thursday, Labour’s Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Human Rights, Kerry McCarthy, said: “The UK Government should be using the opportunity of the G20 meeting in St Petersburg next month to raise this issue with President Putin and make clear the UK’s opposition to the latest examples of repression and discrimination.”
Last week, along with criticism of Russia’s LGBT stance by the UK Foreign Office, a government source told PinkNews.co.uk that they anticipated the issue of homophobic oppression in Russia would be raised at September’s G20 Heads of Government meeting.