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2018 FIFA World Cup Challenges Russia On LGBT Rights

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia may be difficult for the LGBT community to attend…
 
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is set to kick off in two weeks, meaning the world’s most popular sport will see billions of people worldwide tuning in to the games, and celebrating the excitement. The quadrennial soccer (or football) tournament will be held from June 14th until July 15th and will be hosted in the world’s largest nation, Russia.
 
While the fun-and-games will certainly draw in a globally diverse crowd into one of the world’s leading superpowers, there is a pressing concern for LGBT attendees as Russia has increasingly become more vocal about its anti-LGBT sentiment. June will mark the fifth anniversary of the nation’s passing of its ‘anti-gay propaganda law,’ which punishes any encouragement of LGBT support and has seen an surge in backlash and violence toward the community.
 
LGBT soccer fans are being encouraged not to display public forms of affection (even holding hands), as the risk of being attacked is fairly high. The transgender community is also being advised to attend restrooms with a partner, as fear of violence is also a concern.
 
Some Russian soccer ‘hooligans’ have gone as far as to threaten to stab England’s LGBT fans at the up-coming games.
 
One of the cities set to act as a training site, Grozny, is the capital of Chechnya; an area which saw a purge of the LGBT community only last year. Men accused of engaging in homosexual acts were forcefully imprisoned and subject to cases of torture, or death.
 
Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, infamously stated to HBO in an interview last year:
 
“We don’t have any gays here…To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”
 
FIFA has declared that it will ensure a basic standard of human rights within host countries, which includes a zero tolerance toward discrimination of the LGBT community. The organization’s head of sustainability and diversity, Federico Addiechi, stated in an interview with The New York Times that:
 
“If there are any cases of abuse, or even possibility of human rights defenders or journalists being forced into a difficult corner, then according to our statutes and human rights policy, FIFA will intervene.”
 
Russian LGBT community leaders have also declared that a Pride House will be open in Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg. The location will be provided with international support for the community and offer shelter to those in need, despite official backing from Russia’s government.
 
The discussion FIFA’s support of the LGBT community has seen an increase in discussion as the 2022 games are set to take place in Qatar; a nation where homosexuality is illegal and holds a jail sentence of one to three years. The organization has explicitly stated that all hosting countries must ensure there is no discrimination of any kind.
 
Top sponsors of FIFA, such as Coca-Cola, adidas, McDonald’s and Visa are being strongly encouraged to ensure the soccer organization upholds its anti-discriminatory stance. McDonald’s has even announced that it will not sponsor the World Cup in 2022, due to Qatar’s concerns of human rights.
 

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