Sunday will see LGBT rights supporters stage a protest in London over Olympic officials allowing states to compete that have anti-LGBT laws.
“The IOC should disqualify from the Olympics countries that discriminate against athletes on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, religion/belief, sexual orientation or gender identity. The Olympic Charter prohibits discrimination in sport but it is not being enforced by the IOC,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, in a press release.
“The IOC and LOCOG have a duty to uphold the Olympic Charter’s commitment to equality for all in sport. They are failing to do so,” he added.
With this protest, Mr Tatchell is specifically calling on the IOC to enforce the nondiscrimination provisions in the Olympic Charter and “require all competing nations to sign a pledge that they do not discriminate in sport on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, religion/belief, sexual orientation or gender identity,” saying, “If they refuse to sign, they should be denied participation in the games.”
Mr Tatchell also wants Olympic officials to ensure participating countries “make a public statement that LGBT athletes are welcome at London 2012 and that participating nations must not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In a letter sent to the IOC and LOCOG, Tatchell’s foundation also points out:
Despite this laudable commitment, many nations deny equal opportunities to women athletes and to those from ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. They violate the Olympic spirit of equality. This discrimination takes the form of a lack of equal access to sports facilities, competitions and the Olympic selection process.
Some examples include:
The government of Saudi Arabia provides almost no sports facilities for women. It has selected only two token women athletes to compete in the London Olympics – and neither woman actually lives in Saudi Arabia.
Iran practices systematic discrimination against its Kurdish, Arab and Baluch citizens. It holds gender segregated sports competitions and forces female competitors to cover themselves head-to-toe, even if they do not want to. Women athletes are forbidden to have male coaches or to participate in sports that involve physical contact with male sports officials.
In over 150 countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes are forced to hide their sexuality in order to get selected and compete; otherwise they would be rejected and possibly face imprisonment. In the absence of laws against homophobic discrimination, victimisation and bias against LGBT athletes is endemic in most competing nations.
The Peter Tatchell foundation says such state-backed discrimination should not be rewarded by allowing participation in the games.
Sports authorities have long struggled with the issue of participating countries’ internal politics and the desire to hold successful tournaments, often falling back on the idea that such events are about sport and not politics.
However, critics argue that when countries actively and openly persecute their citizens contrary to international human rights standards, any and every engagement with them is a political act and that to try and sidestep such wrongdoing is to lack the courage of one’s convictions.