May 31, 2012

IconEuro 2012 host nation: first racist, now homophobic?

As Euro 2012 approaches, the football seems to be fading into insignificance against a backdrop of human rights scandal.  Racism is rife in the Ukraine and this has been much publicised, but what of the core of homophobic views and actions that riddle the country?

Brutal, horrific and wrong

The picture above depicts a group of masked men setting upon Sviatoslav Sheremet, the head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine.  At the location of this disgusting act (Kiev), there was supposed to be a gay rights parade, but this had to be cancelled due to threats of violence against the participants.  Being humane and civilised people, Sheremet and parade organiser Maksym Kasianchuk decided that the threat of harm against any participant was enough to warrant calling off the march altogether.  Unfortunately, their gallant actions were not sufficient to ensure that harm did not come to them.

Luckily, Mr Sheremet only sustained superficial wounds in this violent and bloody attack.  However, every single day in the Ukraine, others are not so lucky.  This once Soviet country is a place of ‘tradition’ to the extent that happenings like this are all too frequent.  LGBT communities even go so far as to state that reporting these horrific incidents is pointless because the police themselves are often so homophobic that the crimes would be at best ignored and at worst commended.

Courting controversy

Ukraine isn’t the first host of a big sporting event to have questions asked of it; the 2008 Olympics in Beijing were surrounded by a host of controversies, from environmental concerns over the city’s smog issue to the apparent lack of concern for human rights when families were forced out of their homes to make way for the Olympic stadia themselves.  Once again, as with all events to have come under the spotlight in this way, boycotts by individual players and teams have been spoken of.  Sol Campbell has, in a much publicised interview with Panorama, spoken of the scourge of racism in the country and of his fears for travelling fans.  And that is one of the positive aspects of great sporting events being held in countries like this – they tend to cast a very public, international spotlight on that nation’s short-comings, often forcing them to address their issues.

However, it could be argued that there is an underlying current of homophobia in footballing circles in general; we only have to think back to the tragic case of Justin Fashnu to remember that.  So whilst it is fantastic that someone has spoken up about racism in the Ukraine, what about the other issues?  Is there even a fleeting concern for this epidemic anywhere other than in gay rights groups?

Dubious legislation

From my perspective, it doesn’t seem that there is.  And this situation is even more concerning given the draft legislation that is about to wing its way into the Ukraine parliament.  The new bill covers a variety of areas, but its main aim is to ‘lower the profile’ of homosexuals in the country.  To cut a long story short, the bill will make it illegal to be homosexual in public.  And we’re not just talking about PDAs here – oh no, any sign of homosexuality will be called into question.

Now, I don’t know about you but, whilst being gay doesn’t completely define who I am, it’s a pretty sizeable part of my identity if I’m being honest.  To a large extent it influences the music I listen to, the friends I have, the way I dress and the perspective on life that I hold.  How is it possible to be ‘not gay’ in public?  And what determines being ‘not gay’ anyway?  Clearly there are the obvious things, such as no open discussion of this issue and eradicating symbols such as the rainbow flag, but how much further, in practise, will this legislation go?

Yevhen Tsarkov, one of the authors of the bill, described being gay as “a mental illness” and, as such, also something which should not be displayed in public.  With such prejudicial attitudes, how can Ukraine be allowed to host such a major event as Euro 2012?  Having watched Panorama on Monday evening, I was shocked at the treatment of non-white football fans; they were beaten by white fans of the same team, whilst ‘security’ staff (and I use that term in its loosest possible sense) basically stood idly by and watched.  And all this in the family section of the stadium.  Truly horrific.  With 50% of Ukrainians believing that LGBT people should not have the right to live their lives as they choose, it leaves us all in no doubt as to how they must be dealt with on a regular basis, just in case the brutal battery of Sviatoslav Sheremet wasn’t proof enough.

Hopefully, Euro 2012 will come and go with little to no violence, either racist or homophobic.  Whether it actually does or not may be a different story.  Whatever now happens though, it is important that this issue remains in the public eye, if only to eradicate legislation which is set to marginalise an already hugely victimised community.

1 Response to Euro 2012 host nation: first racist, now homophobic?

  1. Danielle says:

    I agree this issue must be kept in the public eye. A very moving and well written piece!

Sue Curley


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