BY PETER TATCHELL | I am writing this shortly after being released from “house arrest” in Mumbai, India. I came here, where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is meeting, to put pressure on it against the attribution of the 2036 Olympic Games to a homophobic regime.
Some of the world’s leading anti-LGBTQIA tyrannies are trying to host the games, including Qatar, China, Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt and Hungary. Giving the Olympics to one of them would not be consistent with an event which, according to the IOC, will “celebrate humanity”.
I thought India was a democracy, but I was wrong. The day after I arrived in Mumbai, six police officers showed up at my hotel and placed me in “protective detention” in my room. I was not allowed to go out, not even to get food and water. Four police officers were stationed to prevent me from leaving. It was only after the intervention of the British Foreign Office that the house arrest order was lifted. But I am still prohibited from “demonstrating, lobbying, leafleting, or holding a press conference” against the anti-LGBTQIA policies of key countries seeking to host the 2036 Olympics.
2036 marks the 100th anniversary of the 1936 Olympic Games, organized by a homophobic and anti-Semitic Nazi dictatorship. There is a real risk that 2036 will echo these shameful fascist games.
Just look at the list of probable or confirmed bidders. They all criminalize homosexuality or violate LGBTQIA human rights – and also violate the rights of women, refugees, workers, atheists, and ethnic and religious minorities.
Declared and likely contenders for the 2036 Olympics include:
LGBTQIA Qataris face street harassment by police, online trapping, imprisonment, torture and so-called “honor” killings; as well as abusive state-sponsored conversion treatment. Not long ago, these false “cures” led to the suicide of at least one gay Qatari. The media presents stereotypical, clichéd and demonizing caricatures of LGBTQIA people. Women and migrant workers are treated as second and third class citizens.
New administrative capital, Egypt
Vague accusations of “morality” are used to prosecute LGBTQIA people, social media influencers, and rape survivors who speak out. Police exploit dating apps to lure gay and bisexual men on dates, then arrest and imprison them – often after being tortured and blackmailed into naming other LGBTQIA people. Waving a rainbow flag can land you in jail. The demonstrations are brutally repressed.
Repression is increasing against the LGBTQIA community, with the forced closure of LGBTQIA centers and WeChat groups. The state ordered that television be rid of so-called “effeminate” men. Lesbian and trans women are facing increased pressure due to the new gender law which requires women to “respect and obey… family values”. More than a million Uyghur Muslims, including some LGBTQIA, have been interned without trial and subjected to forced “re-education.” In Hong Kong, China’s draconian national security legislation is systematically dismantling the city’s freedoms.
The government harasses critics and imprisons political opponents, including LGBTQIA people like Cihan Erdal. Pride parades are regularly banned and violently attacked by police, with many participants arrested and beaten. President Erdogan has called the LGBTQIA community “deviant.” He is committed to defending the traditional family and fighting what he calls “perverse” social trends. His regime terrorizes the Kurdish minority with armed raids against Kurdish villages and bombings of Kurdish regions in northern Syria. LGBTQIA people are among the many victims of this anti-Kurdish terrorist campaign.
Indonesia enacted a new criminal code in 2022 that violates international human rights standards. Marginalized social groups – including women, LGBTQIA, and religious and ethnic minorities – are often mistreated with no recourse. Gay places are raided by the police. Homosexuality is banned in the South Sumatra and Aceh provinces (where LGBTQIA people can also be publicly beaten.) A 2008 anti-pornography law was manipulated to prosecute gay and bisexual men. The army is accused of a slow genocide in occupied West Papua. Tens of thousands of indigenous people were massacred.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has denounced what he calls the EU’s pro-LGBTQIA “offensive”. His government ended legal recognition of trans people and banned “homosexual and transgender propaganda” that could be seen by those under 18. Discrimination against LGBTQIA people, women and Roma persists, mostly unchecked. Same-sex couples and individuals do not have the right to adopt children. Pushbacks against migrants and refugees continue, with LGBTQIA people fleeing persecution almost never granted asylum.
The IOC should not award any of these countries the 2036 Olympics prize. LGBTQIA freedom and other human rights must take priority over profits, glitz and showmanship. If it colludes with rival homophobic regimes, the IOC will betray LGBTQIA victims of oppression and tarnish its own reputation.
Hosting the Olympic Games is a privilege, not a right. This comes with obligations and these must include respecting international and IOC human rights standards. No country should be rewarded for its despotism – or for its homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersexphobia.
The IOC Congress in Mumbai will only be a success if it agrees that the Olympic Games will never again be awarded to an authoritarian regime that tramples human rights – no matter how much money and promises he made to the IOC delegates.
The Olympic motto is “Faster, higher, stronger – together”. Now is the time to add “Diverse, Free, Equal – Together.” Over to you, IOC.
Peter Tatchell is Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation. Netflix is currently streaming “Hating Peter Tatchell” about his 56 years of campaigning for human rights and the LGBTQIA community.