Google has waded into the debate on Russia’s anti-gay law by publishing a rainbow-coloured version of its online logo on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Beneath the Google doodle, which features pictures of different winter sports, is a quote from the Olympic charter: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
The lead-up to the Games has been marred by allegations of corruption and human rights abuses but it is Russia’s “gay propaganda” law that has received the most media attention. Under the law, the dissemination of information about non-traditional relations to minors is illegal.
Numerous cultural figures, including British actor and TV presenter Stephen Fry have called for a boycott while earlier this week, more than 200 world authors protested a trio of anti-free speech laws. Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Günter Grass were among those to write an open letter to Russia condemning the “gay propaganda” and blasphemy laws as well as the recriminalisation of defamation. The letter, published in The Guardian, came just weeks after Sir Ian McKellan, best known for his role as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, joined 27 Nobel laureates to urge President Vladimir Putin to repeal the law.
In a speech on Thursday to the International Olympic Committee, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned attacks on the LGBT community in Russia. Since the passage of the “gay propaganda” law last summer, human rights organisations both within and outside Russia have reported a rise in homophobic violence. Last week, Hunters, a popular gay dating app was hacked and a threatening message sent to its more than 72,000 users. The anonymous threat read: “You will be arrested and jailed for gay propaganda in Sochi according to Russian Federal Law #135 Sektion 6.”