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Russia again seeks to reassure IOC over Olympics

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said everyone welcome at games

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Athlete Ally, All Out, IOC, International Olympic Committee, Russia, Sochi, gay news, Washington Blade
Athlete Ally, All Out, IOC, International Olympic Committee, Russia, Sochi, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of All Out and Athlete Ally on August 7 presented a petition with more than 300,000 signatures to the International Olympic Committee that urges it to pressure Russia to end its gay crackdown. (Photo courtesy of All Out)

The International Olympic Committee on Thursday said it had received additional assurances from the Russian government that gay people would be welcome to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The IOC said in a statement Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak wrote in a letter to the Olympic body that his country “has committed itself to comply strictly with the provisions of the Olympic Charter and its fundamental principles, according to item 6 of which ‘any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.”

“The Russian Federation guarantees the fulfillment of its obligations before the International Olympic Committee in its entirety,” Kozak added, according to the IOC.

Kozak’s letter to the IOC comes eight days after the Olympic body reiterated to the Washington Blade its previous statements that said it has “received assurances” from the Kremlin the broadly-worded law that President Vladimir Putin signed in June that bans gay propaganda to minors will “not affect those attending or taking part” in the Sochi games.

The Russian Interior Ministry in an August 12 statement said it would enforce the statute during the Olympics. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko earlier this week again defended the law.

“We want to protect our children whose psyches have not formed from the propaganda of drug use, drunkenness and non-traditional sexual relations,” he told reporters during a Moscow press conference as the Associated Press reported.

Athletes speak out against anti-gay law

Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov and gay playwright Harvey Fierstein are among those who have called for a boycott of the Sochi games that will take place in February. Author Dan Savage, LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones and others have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

President Obama, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis and several LGBT advocacy groups that include Athlete Ally are among those who feel the U.S. should compete in Sochi.

American runner Nick Symmonds criticized Russia’s gay propaganda ban last week in an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti after he competed in the World Athletic Championships in Moscow. Figure skater Johnny Weir, whose husband is of Russian descent, told CBS News earlier this month he is “not afraid of being arrested” while at the Olympics.

High jumper Emma Green Tregaro and sprinter Mao Hjelmer, who are from Sweden, painted their fingernails in rainbow colors as they competed in the World Athletic Championships. The AP reported Green Tregaro wore red fingernail polish during an August 17 high jump competition at the same event because Swedish athletic officials reportedly asked her to change their color.

Yelena Isinbayeva, a Russian Olympic pole vault champion, defended the gay propaganda law as she criticized Green Tregaro and Hjelmer during an August 15 press conference after she won her third title at the World Athletic Championships. Russian sprinter Kseniya Ryzhova earlier this week dismissed suggestions she and teammate Tatyana Firova challenged the statute when they kissed on the medal podium after they won the women’s 4 x 400 meter rally at the event.

The IOC on August 14 reaffirmed to the Blade it will not allow athletes who compete in Sochi to publicly challenge Russia’s gay propaganda ban. The Olympic Charter states anyone who violates the rule could face potential disqualification or loss of their accreditation to the games, although the IOC it would “always treat cases individually and take a sensible approach depending on what was said or done.”

An IOC spokesperson declined to provide the Blade a copy of the letter it said Kozak wrote to the Olympic body.

The AP reported Kozak wrote in his letter he addressed to French IOC member Jean-Claude Killy the gay propaganda law is about the “restriction of information that promotes non-traditional sexual relationships among children.” The news agency said Kozak further defended the statute.

“These legislations apply equally to all persons, irrespective of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation and cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation,” he reportedly wrote.

Cyd Zeigler, Jr., co-founder of Outsports.com, again criticized the gay propaganda law in response to Kozak’s letter to the IOC.

“The problem with this law has always been interpretation,” Zeigler told the Blade. “It’s the same ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ mantra we’ve heard so many times before. Russia can say they will welcome anyone, but they won’t allow any action. They won’t allow fans to wave rainbow flags in the streets or hold hands and kiss in public.”

Zeigler also described the IOC as “problematic.”

“Now they’re pressuring national Olympic committees to stop athletes from painting their fingernails in rainbow colors,” he said. “Russia is only part of the problem here, the IOC itself is the other piece.”

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South America

Bolsonaro, Lula to face off in second round of Brazil presidential election

Neither candidate received 50 percent of vote on Sunday

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From left, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Photo of Bolsonaro by Celso Pupo/Bigstock; photo of Lula courtesy Lula campaign)

Editor’s note: International News Editor Michael K. Lavers will be on assignment in Brazil through Oct. 11.

BRASÍLIA, Brazil — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will face off in the second round of the country’s presidential election on Oct. 30 after neither of them received a majority of votes on Sunday.

Da Silva was ahead of Bolsonaro by a 47.9-43.6 percent margin with 97.5 percent of electronic voting machines counted, according to Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Bolsonaro, a former Brazilian Army captain who is a member of the right-wing Liberal Party, represented Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian Congress from 1991 until he took office in 2018. 

Polls ahead of Sunday’s election suggested Da Silva was poised to defeat Bolsonaro in the first round. Bolsonaro’s efforts to discredit Brazil’s electoral system increased concerns that violence could erupt in the country if Bolsonaro did not accept the results. 

The incumbent president has faced sharp criticism because of his rhetoric against LGBTQ and intersex Brazilians, women, people of African and indigenous descent and other groups.

He has encouraged fathers to beat their sons if they think they are gay.

Bolsonaro during a 2019 press conference in the White House Rose Garden stressed his “respect of traditional family values.” Bolsonaro has expressed his opposition to “gender ideology,” supports legislation that would limit LGBTQ-specific curricula in Brazil’s schools and condemned a 2019 Brazilian Supreme Court ruling that criminalized homophobia and transphobia.

A Brazilian Federal Police investigator in August called for prosecutors to charge Bolsonaro with incitement for spreading false information about COVID-19 after he said people who are vaccinated against the virus are at increased risk for AIDS. Activists and HIV/AIDS service providers with whom the Washington Blade spoke in March sharply criticized Bolsonaro’s policies towards people with HIV/AIDS.

Supporters of president jair bolsonaro hold a ‘motociata’ near the brazilian congress in brasÍlia, brazil, on oct. 1, 2022. (video by michael k. lavers)

Da Silva, who was Brazil’s president from 2003-2010, is a member of the country’s leftist Workers’ Party.

Sergio Moro, a judge who Bolsonaro later tapped as his government’s Justice and Public Security Minister, in 2017 sentenced Da Silva to 9 1/2 years in prison after his conviction on money laundering and corruption charges that stemmed from Operation Car Wash. 

The Brazilian Supreme Court in November 2019 ordered Da Silva’s release.

Julian Rodrigues, who was the coordinator of the Workers’ Party’s National Working Group from 2006-2012, noted to the Blade during a previous interview that Da Silva in 2004 created the Health Ministry’s “Brazil without Homophobia” campaign. Rodrigues also highlighted Da Silva created the Culture Ministry’s Diversity Secretariat that, among other things, funded community centers and sought to make police officers and other law enforcement officials more friendly to LGBTQ and intersex people.

The Blade will update this story.

A flag in support of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a bookstore in Brasília, Brazil, on Oct. 1, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
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Africa

Kenya seeks to ban LGBTQ movies on Netflix

Prohibition expected to take effect by end of year

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(Public domain photo)

The streaming of LGBTQ movies on Netflix in Kenya is set to be restricted as the country tightens the noose on same-sex sexual activity. 

The Kenya Film Classification Board, which is charged with the classification and regulations of films for public consumption, is in final talks with Netflix to restrict same-sex content that violates the country’s laws.

Acting Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Christopher Wambua confirmed that official discussions with Netflix Africa began in October 2021, while noting that access to LGBTQ movies will be restricted before the end of this year. 

“Already we have developed a draft agreement that defines how to conduct their (Netflix) operations in the country after another discussion in April this year,” Wambua said. 

The Kenya Film Classification Board is supposed to share the agreement with Netflix Africa this week for further scrutiny of its provisions before implementing it. The company’s content manager for the continent is a Kenyan based in Nairobi. 

The board has classified LGBTQ content under the “restricted category,” meaning it is not allowed for broadcast, exhibition and distribution to the public. 

The agreement allows Netflix to self-classify movies streamed in Kenya by limiting offensive content that glorifies, normalizes, promotes and propagates homosexuality. 

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized under Section 165 of Kenya’s Penal Code while the Films and Stage Plays Act gives the board the power to regulate the exhibition, distribution, possession, or broadcasting of content to the public. Its content classification exempts live programming and news.    

“Netflix will have to develop an intelligence safety-worth classification pool that is consistent with the film classification guidelines for Kenya so that the system’s output is aligned with our local laws and regulatory provisions concerning content classification,” stated Wambua.   

The move to permit Netflix and other streaming services to self-classy movies for Kenya will only allow the board to monitor compliance.

“Netflix has indicated a commitment to operate in the country within the purview of the existing laws,” he said. “By the end of October this year we should have finalized the agreement so that by November we pilot the new framework.”

Kenya is the second African country to demand Netfilx ban the streaming of LGBTQ movies.

Egypt’s media regulator this month warned Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming services against broadcasting content that breaches its “societal values” and threatened to take action if not curbed.  

The first Netflix film, “Perfect Strangers,” released earlier this year targeting the Arabic audience sparked criticism in Egypt and the Middle East for having scenes that depict homosexuality. One Egyptian lawmaker even called for Netflix to be banned in the country.

Egypt is among the countries in the Arab World that do not condone homosexuality. 

Egyptian authorities usually prosecute gay men on charges of “immorality” or “debauchery.” Police regularly raid private parties, restaurants and bars to arrest them. 

Egypt’s warning on Sept. 7 came a day after Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman demanded Netflix to drop “offensive content” from its local streaming platforms as it “contradicts Islamic and societal values and principles.”

Egypt and Kenya have the highest number of Netflix subscriptions in Africa.

Kenya in September 2021 banned a gay documentary, “I Am Samuel,” produced by a local filmmaker.

The Kenya Film Classification Board said was “blasphemous” because it promoted “values that are in dissonance with our constitution, culture, values and norms.” The same film, however, has been screened at more than 25 film festivals globally and streamed on iTunes, Vimeo and other international platforms. 

Filmmakers and groups opposed to the government’s LGBTQ films restriction criticized the decision as an abuse of the freedom of expression the Kenyan Constitution guarantees. Courts have dismissed challenges to it.

Apart from the Kenya Film Classification Board reaching a deal with Netflix to restrict LGBTQ content, Wambua disclosed that a new law has already been approved by the outgoing Cabinet to help the board effectively classify and regulate content in this digital era.        

“The new digital platforms allowing streaming of movies make it difficult hence need to do some readjustments in the law to give companies powers to self-classify their videos-on-demand films that apply on auto-visual content. The existing law was for the analogue era,” he noted. 

The proposed law, dubbed the Kenya Film Bill 2021, has yet to be introduced in the Kenyan Parliament, which reconvened on Wednesday after August’s general election.    

The bill would recognize Kenya Film Classification Board key mandates of regulating the creation, broadcasting, distribution, possession and exhibition of films through the issuance of licenses to filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors. The bill would also recognize the Kenya Film Classification Board’s role in classifying films under various categories such as films that are either restricted or prohibited.  

The Kenya Film Classification Board is engaging with other regulatory government agencies to have minimal adjustments on self-classifications through miscellaneous amendments to restrict LGBTQ content to avoid any delay in enacting the proposed law.   

“If this is done even before we overhaul the existing law, we would have the requisite provisions that are necessary to allow us to accommodate the business model of videos-on-demand (VODs) which are on digital demand,” Wambua said. 

The Washington Blade has reached out to Netflix for comment.

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European Union

Anti-LGBTQ party leader poised to become next Italy prime minister

Giorgia Meloni is chair of far-right Brothers of Italy party

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Giorgia Meloni speaks to supporters on Sept. 25, 2022, after polls closed in Italy. (Screenshot from YouTube)

Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, head of the Brothers of Italy party, appeared to have won in Sunday’s snap general elections according to exit polling. In a coalition with other right wing parties, Meloni’s right-wing alliance now looks to have control of both houses, with a projected 42.2 percent of the Senate vote.

This will lead to her forming Italy’s most right-wing government since World War II and Meloni is now set to be Italy’s first female prime minister. However, the final say will rest with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, a decision that is expected to take some time according to political observers in Rome familiar with the inner workings of the Italian government.

Turnout for Sunday’s elections was dramatically low — 63.82 percent by the time polls closed — said Italy’s interior ministry, almost 10 points down on 2018. Voting levels were especially poor in southern regions including Sicily.

Meloni’s Facebook post made after the results had been announced translates to:

History we made today.

This victory is dedicated to all the militants, managers, supporters and every single person who – in these years — has contributed to the realization of our dream, offering soul and heart spontaneously and selflessly.

To those who, despite the difficulties and the most complex moments, have remained in their place, with conviction and generosity. But, above all, it’s dedicated to those who believe and have always believed in us.

We won’t betray your trust. We are ready to lift Italy up.

THANK YOU ! 🇮🇹

Meloni is seen as polarizing figure with some of her political stances and rhetoric on the European Union aligning her close to Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban. However, Professor Gianluca Passarrelli of Rome’s Sapienza University told the BBC he thought she would avoid rocking the boat on Europe and focus on other policies: “I think we will see more restrictions on civil rights and policies on LGBT and immigrants.”

Meloni has long displayed antagonism and intolerance towards the LGBTQ community. She has stated that she perceives sees LGBTQ as menacing and threatening Western civilization.

The BBC noted that earlier this year she outlined her priorities in a raucous speech to Spain’s far-right Vox party: “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology … no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration … no to big international finance … no to the bureaucrats of Brussels!”

As LGBTQ equity and equality rights are foundational to the European Union and its governing commission, some see Meloni as combatting the EU over LGBTQ issues in the same vein as Orban.

On other issues Meloni doesn’t claim to “oppose” Europe, but rather she outlines a model of integration that may or may not go down well in Brussels, euronews reported.

“If we had an EU more like the one we imagine, we would have developed a more effective defense policy, invested in energy security and maintained short value chains to avoid reliance on third — often untrustworthy — countries for gas, raw materials, commodities, chips and other goods,” she stated.

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