insidethegames.biz / Time for Commonwealth to stand up to homophobic members if Glasgow 2014 to mean anything
If the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games mean sending gay and lesbian athletes into the lion’s den of homophobia, the Commonwealth Games are about inviting the homophobic lion’s over for a spot of tea.
Nick Butler’s excellent article in insidethegames noted the adoption of a new particularly homophobic law in Commonwealth member Uganda.
At the recent Commonwealth conference in Sri Lanka, the subject of the prevalence of homophobia in Commonwealth states and the rise of anti-gay laws in many was carefully eluded by Britain and other progressive members of the Commonwealth.
It demonstrated what many had already noted back in March when Queen Elizabeth signed in her role as ceremonial head of the group of former British colonies the organisation’s first Charter of Values, which the United Kingdom Government claimed included protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation…which it didn’t.
Instead, the Charter, rather like the Olympic Charter, says that signatories oppose “all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds”. Like the Olympic Charter’s Principle 6, “other grounds” was supposed to be understood to include sexual orientation, and many credulous gays took the bait, despite that fact that homosexuals are persecuted and homosexuality criminalised in many Commonwealth nations.
As Nick Butler noted, 41 of the 56 member nations of the Commonwealth have some kind of law persecuting same-sex relationships, including some regimes like Nigeria, where those subject to Sharia law face stoning to death for homosexual relations.
The latest abomination is the Ugandan law, which makes men engaging in sexual relations with other men subject to life in prison.
The flags of these homophobic regimes will be flying at Celtic Park in Glasgow for Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In the meantime, the rainbow flag will be flying at Pride House, organised by LEAP Sports Scotland, a partner of the Federation of Gay Games in the Pride House International coalition.
Why is homophobia in Commonwealth nations a problem for the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF)?
We need to start with the CGF’s own words, as found in their constitution:
The Mission of the Federation is to “promote the best interests of athletes participating in them and to assist in the development of sport throughout the Commonwealth” and to “promote the shared values of integrity, fair play, competence, commitment to excellence, respect for gender equality and tolerance”. The remit of the CGF is for sport throughout the Commonwealth, not just at the Games. It wishes to promote tolerance and gender equality, again, throughout the Commonwealth.
insidethegames has been told by a CGF spokesman “that until a country specifically outlaws an athlete competing, or does something which would directly affect sport, no action would be taken against [homophobic] member nations”. This is the language of cowards. In England, Tom Daley has come out as bi. Which Ugandan athlete would be so foolish as to do the same? Does it take the stoning of a gay athlete in Nigeria for the CGF to take action?
At last month’s Commonwealth summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the UK, Australia, Canada, etc. refused to speak out on protection against discrimination against LGBT people, for fear of rocking the boat or seeing the homophobes leave the Commonwealth in protest. Yet if not to promote some sort of human value, what good is the Commonwealth? And if the Commonwealth Games choose not to defend their mission of promotion of tolerance, what good are these Games?
The Host Committee of the 2014 Games is exemplary, and has already involved LEAP Sports Scotland in its planning. But they are not ultimately responsible for enforcing the constitution of the CGF. It’s time for the leaders of the CGF to step up to the plate and ban the participation of countries which put athletes in prison or stone them to death. Because there are gay athletes everywhere, even in Nigeria, even in Uganda, even in the dozens of other homophobic countries that make up the not-so-noble assembly that is the Commonwealth.
You can learn more about the 2014 Commonwealth Games Pride House at the Pride House event LEAP Sports Scotland will be organising during the Sochi Games. More information will be available soon at leapsports.org and pridehouseinternational.org .