Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered new assurances to gay athletes and fans attending the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics next month. Yet he defends Russia’s anti-gay law by equating gays with pedophiles and says Russia needs to “cleanse” itself of homosexuality if it wants to increase its birth rate.
Putin’s comments in a TV interview broadcast Sunday still show the wide gulf between the perception of homosexuality in Russia versus the West. A Russian law passed last year banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” among minors has caused an international outcry.
Putin refused to answer a question on whether he believes that people are born gay or become gay. The Russian law, however, suggests that information about homosexuality can influence a child’s sexual orientation.
The Russian president has found himself frequently discussing his country’s anti-gay laws, as the world’s attention shifts Russia’s way ahead of the Olympics. Putin has identified himself closely with the $50-billion event. Calls for a mass boycott of the games due to the laws have failed, but the row has clouded the build-up to the event.
Critics say the law is discriminatory and part of a rolling back of human rights and democratic freedoms under Putin, who has taken a more conservative course on social issues since returning to the presidency in mid-2012.
On Friday, Putin insisted Russia is not “going after” gays, according to Reuters. “There is no ban on non-traditional forms of sexual interaction between people. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality”