The 2018 World Cup will be held in 12 venues across Russia, from Jun. 14, 2018 to Jul. 15, 2018. Given Russia’s homophobic culture, queer fans were unsure if they’d be able to bring rainbow flags. But the word just came down that at the World Cup rainbow flags are OK.
The decision on World Cup rainbow flags in Russia
Alexei Smertin, an official for the Russian Football Union and a World Cup ambassador, said rainbow-printed materials will be allowed in the stadium. He said:
There will definitely be no ban on wearing rainbow symbols in Russia. It’s clear you can come here and not be fined for expressing feelings. The law is about propaganda to minors. I can’t imagine that anyone is going to go into a school and propagate that way to children.
There were similar worries before the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Then, as now, gay people would be welcome to attend the events. However, President Vladimir Putin said that while they may come, they must “leave the children in peace.”
Putin may have merely been referring to the 2013 law banning gay “propaganda” to minors. However, his comment more likely refers to the common homophobic belief that homosexuality and pedophilia are somehow linked. (In fact, child sexual abusers who identify as gay or lesbian are exceptionally rare.)
World Cup rainbow flags are allowed, but same-sex couples holding hands …
While rainbows will be allowed at the World Cup, homophobia is still a danger for travellers. FIFA, the worldwide soccer organization, has warned gay fans about public displays of affection. The FARE Network, which advises FIFA on discrimination issues, says it will create a guide for gay soccer fans letting them know what to expect. Piara Powar, FARE’s executive director said:
The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community. If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so? That depends on which city they are in and the time of day.
The guide will also include some detailed explanations of for example the actual situation of the LGBT community in Russia. 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. Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground.
Powar also approved of Smertin’s comments on rainbow flags, saying “He’s giving some reassurances and that’s all that people want. People want to know that they can come here safely, that they will be protected, that they are wanted.”
Featured image by peepo via iStock