LGBT+ soccer fans travelling to Russia for the upcoming World Cup have been “strongly” warned to avoid any public displays of affection or sexual identity in order not to jeopardise their personal safety.
In addition, transgender people have been advised to opt for the disabled bathroom when using the toilets alone to avoid assaults in the notoriously homophobic country.
The warning has been issued by a U.K based soccer supporters association which drew attention to a deepening homophobic climate within Russia which has raised fears amongst members of the LGBT+ population.
According to Supporters Association, “although same-sex sexual activity has been decriminalised in Russia since 1993, it is strongly understood and advised that you do not publicly display your sexuality”
“With any trip abroad it is essential to understand your destination’s cultural and ideological beliefs. Whilst often you are able to behave as you would in the UK, certain things must be treated with caution in societies less tolerant than back home.”
There are also concerns that LGBT+ soccer fans who wave rainbow flags during the tournament could violate the 2003 ‘gay propaganda law’ which prohibits the promotion of a gay lifestyle to minors.
Former Chelsea soccer star Alexei Smertin, now a Russian Football Union official and World Cup ambassador, declared in 2017 that gay fans would be allowed to wave the flag but that promotion to minors would not be tolerated.
“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 to a school and propagate that way to children.”
The law has been criticised by The European Court of Human Rights who ruled that it reinforces “stigma and prejudice” and violates the right to freedom of expression.
The Moscow Times earlier this year reported that 83% of Russians think that LGBT+ people are “reprehensible”.
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