Ban and leading authors in gay rights plea ahead of Sochi games

Ban and leading authors in gay rights plea ahead of Sochi games

SOCHI - Agence France-Presse
Ban and leading authors in gay rights plea ahead of Sochi games

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is presented with an Olympic torch by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. AP photo

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Feb. 6 urged an end to attacks and discrimination against gays on the eve of official opening of the Sochi Olympics as 200 leading international authors also joined the call.

The build-up to the 22nd Winter Olympics has been overshadowed by fears over a law passed last year banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors criticised by activists as vehemently homophobic.

Speaking as sporting action got under way at the Games on Thursday, Ban told a session of the International Olympic Committee in Sochi that everyone should join together to battle against discrimination.

"We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrest, imprisonment and discriminatory restrictions they face," he said.

"I know principle six of the Olympic Charter enshrines the IOC's opposition to any form of discrimination.

"Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century," said Ban, who did not specifically address the situation in Russia.

Ban's comments came as more than 200 leading international authors including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen criticised Russia's anti-gay and blasphemy laws as a "chokehold" on creativity in an open letter published in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot defied President Vladimir Putin by calling for a "Russia that is free" at a star-studded New York concert where they were feted by Madonna and cheered by thousands.

Russia warns against 'gay propaganda' 
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak warned spectators and athletes against promoting gay rights during the Olympics, saying it was forbidden by the Olympic Charter and Russian law to spread propaganda during a sporting event.

Amid a continued furore over Russia's controversial new law, Kozak once again argued that that there was no discrimination based on sexual orientation in the country.

But he reminded participants in the Games that the law means it is not allowed to promote homosexuality among minors - a stipulation seen as vehemently homophobic by activists.

"We have no restrictions on citizens rights based on their sexuality. We are adults here and we can carry out our private lives as we deem necessary," Kozak told reporters. "They (gays) can make propaganda about their sexual orientation among adults. But there is no need to involve children. I have already said this many times," he said.

Despite the simmering controversy, Kozak said he hoped there would be no "problems or conflicts" over the gay controversy during the opening, closing ceremonies or the sporting events themselves.

"Political propaganda during sporting events is forbidden by the Olympic charter and Russian law," he said.

One day ahead of the official opening of the Games, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had earlier made a powerful call for equality, saying "we must all raise our voices against attacks" on gays.