Gay fans warned over holding hands at Russia World Cup
LONDON, United Kingdom – Gay football fans at the 2018 World Cup will be warned about holding hands in public as part of advice on keeping safe in Russia.
London-based anti-discrimination group Fare is producing a guide for supporters from the black and ethnic minority and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.
Fare director Piara Powar said the guide would advise gay people to be cautious anywhere "not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community".
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993 but prejudice is common and human rights activists allege widespread abuse.
"The same message is there for black and ethnic minority fans – do go to the World Cup but be cautious," said Powar.
"If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so? That depends on which city they are in and the time of day.
"It is not a crime to be gay (in Russia) but there is a law against the promotion of homosexuality to minors.
"Issues relating to the LGBT community are not part of the public discourse. Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground."
A FIFA spokesman said football's world governing body could not comment "on this planned guide on such short notice" but it "has a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination".
Fare, set up in 1999 as a network of European fans' groups against racism and other forms of prejudice, has also asked FIFA if fans can wave rainbow flags at World Cup matches.
FIFA has been struggling to tackle persistent homophobic chanting by fans, particularly in Central and South America, where countries such as Chile and Mexico have been repeatedly fined to little effect.
"There is no offense of homophobia in FIFA's rules and we have made clear that there should be," said Powar.
"It is critical there is a clear message about FIFA's ability to act in these cases against the fans that are responsible."
But he was more optimistic about the 2018 World Cup.
"In Russia it tends to be that politicians feel they are being attacked and say that it is all a Western conspiracy driven by the Western media, usually the UK media, and then after a while they accept there are some issues and quietly get on with dealing with those issues," he said.
"The local population are pretty proud of the fact they are hosting and want to be seen as acting as a good host."
The draw for Russia 2018 takes place in Moscow on Friday, December 1, with the tournament starting on June 14, 2018. – Rappler.com