FIFA’s anti-discrimination advisers have warned gay soccer fans planning to go to next year’s 2018 World Cup in Russia against public display of affection (PDA) as it could be met with an aggressive response from intolerant locals.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in the European country some 24 years ago (1993), however anti-gay sentiment remains strong and intensified after the introduction of a law in 2013 that prohibites dissemination to minors of “propaganda” legitimizing homosexuality.
According to FARE network, a guide would be made to spell out the threats to be prepared for in Russia.
The body’s executive director Piara Power 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.” Power added.
FARE, the body saddled with the responsibility of monitoring FIFA fixtures for discriminatory behavior, also disclosed that it is unclear whether fans will be allowed to display rainbow flags inside stadiums.
Powar said: “British and German fans’ groups have asked FIFA if they are OK to raise a rainbow flag inside the stadium.”
“FIFA has not really responded so far to say if this is something the security services will allow.” Powar concluded.
On the issue of unfurling flags, FIFA diversity head Federico Addiechi revealed that he has not seen any written request from fan groups on whether gay pride flags can be unfurled.
He said: “There’s nothing in the regulation from FIFA that prevents anyone from entering the stadiums with non-political messages.”
Speaking further, Powar disclosed that fans should be cautious. “Do go to the World Cup, but be cautious.”
There are two elements to it — one towards people of color and other element is far-right nationalism. Far-right extremist groups have had around 300 people banned from attending the World Cup.
“After years of denial about racism Russian FA finally taking action, group under Alexei Smertin has been addressing the issue and fines have been issued.” Powar concluded.
“The World Cup must be inclusive, respect human rights, must respect the rights of everyone including minorities.” FIFA chief stated.
“We have the assurance from the Russian organizing committee and the Russian authorities that everyone will feel safe, comfortable and welcome in the country.”