In the past year there was a great deal of media coverage given and annoyance over Russia’s anti-gay legislation and its threatening to damage the soon-to-be-held Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Now a storm is brewing in Scotland as Glasgow, host of this year’s Commonwealth Games is preparing to welcome a number of nations with worse discrimination against homosexuals that Russia.
This came under the spotlight last week when Uganda’s parliament, which already bans homosexuality increased the punishment for living such a life to life imprisonment. It also made it an offence not to report homosexuality.
Gay rights groups are claiming that legal persecution exists against homosexuals in 40 of the 53 Commonwealth countries expected to participate at the Games later this year. Some advocate flogging and death by stoning.
Gay Rights activist Peter Tatchell has asked the Commonwealth Games Federation to organise a Human Rights conference on the issue to run alongside the Games, but he has yet to receive any response.
“In these countries it is impossible for an openly gay athlete to be selected. This is clearly homophobic discrimination which the Commonwealth people need to tackle.” Tatchell is quoted as saying.
Scotland’s sports minister Shona Robson has said she “fully supports any moves to protect and defend equality. The Scottish Government firmly believes there is no place for discrimination in any part of the world and that everyone deserves to be treated fairly regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
England has two openly gay athletes due to compete, in diver Tom Daley and boxer Nicola Adams. Whether either opts to make a stand for athletes from other countries who will be unable to compete due to their sexual orientation is yet to be seen.
It is sad that such a life choice should prevent any talented individual, sporting or otherwise from showcasing their skills on the world stage. The Olympic movement is very proud to promote “Sport for All – sport belongs to everyone” it is time that the Commonwealth Games did the same. However it is of course not that simple, and the boundaries between sport and Politics suddenly become entwined, but change has to start somewhere and maybe Glasgow can be the start of that move towards change. Small gestures now can make a big difference in the future.