MOSCOW, August 7 (RIA Novosti) – A senior Russian Foreign Ministry official on Wednesday deflected Western criticism of the so-called anti-gay law, saying the recently adopted legislation did not violate the rights of sexual minorities in the country but was aimed at protecting minors.
“As to the criticism of our law banning homosexual propaganda we have to reiterate that this criticism is absolutely invalid and groundless,” said the Foreign Ministry's rights envoy, Konstantin Dolgov.
“It is an attempt to accuse us of violating international obligations that do not exist,” he said.
On the contrary, he said, Russia is party to a number of international conventions and agreements that prohibit discrimination on any grounds, including the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“This convention aims in part to protect children from harmful information, and we believe that promotion of homosexuality could harm them,” Dolgov said.
“Therefore, we are fulfilling our obligations, but our critics attempt to accuse us of violating some obligations that don’t exist. It is a misleading substitution of notions,” the official said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” toward minors in June.
While the law’s proponents argue that it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics have called the legislation homophobic and so vaguely defined that it would inevitably be used arbitrarily against homosexuals and stir hate crimes in the country.
The law has also sparked controversy ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and raised concerns that visiting gay athletes and spectators could face discrimination or even legal action.
Campaigners against the so-called anti-gay law have called for a boycott of the Games in the Black Sea resort town and handed over a 320,000-signature petition to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urging it to condemn what they called “barbaric” legislation.
Dolgov on Wednesday denounced calls to boycott the Sochi Games as counterproductive and going against the principles of the Olympic movement, adopted by all countries. Furthermore, the Olympic charter prohibits athletes from making political gestures during the Winter and Summer Games.
Dolgov stressed that all athletes and guests of the Olympic games in Sochi would be treated “with maximum hospitality,” but Moscow was expecting them to respect the Russian legislation, including the law banning the promotion of homosexuality.
The latest polls from the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) show that 88 percent of Russians support the new law, while 54 percent believe that homosexuality should be altogether criminalized.