Magazine article The Spectator

The Hypocrisy Game

Magazine article The Spectator

The Hypocrisy Game

Article excerpt

Where are the threats of a boycott, the calls for isolation, the outraged letters to the Prime Minister? Where are the rainbow logos, the delegations of human rights activists, the declarations of solidarity? On 16 March Bangladesh is to host the T20 World Cup, one of the top limited overs tournaments in international cricket. All the top cricketing nations, including England, will participate. Yet the competition has not attracted so much as a bat squeak of protest from gay rights campaigners, despite the fact that Bangladesh has an appalling record of institutionalised discrimination against homosexuals.

Indeed, same-sex activity remains a criminal offence in the country.

Similarly, not a single objection has been made to India's cricket tour of England this summer, which will involve five Test matches and six one-day internationals.

This equanimity from the gay rights lobby is astonishing, given that last December India's Supreme Court decided to reaffirm the country's legal ban on homosexuality.

It was a judgement that overturned a ruling of the Delhi High Court in 2009, which had legalised gay sex. Activists in India were outraged at the Supreme Court's recent decision. 'We've been set back 100 years. What age are we living in?' said Anjali Gopalan, of the Naz Foundation, a gay rights pressure group in India.

But in sporting circles, this judicial regression is a taboo subject. The contrast with Russia could hardly be more graphic. In the run-up to last month's Winter Olympics in Sochi, the airwaves were filled with indignation at the brutal homophobia of President Putin's regime. There were demands for a boycott of the games and acres of press coverage were devoted to the evils of Russian anti-gay prejudice from both the public and officialdom. Much of this fury concentrated on a law passed in June last year by the Russian parliament that outlawed 'propaganda of non-traditional relations', a piece of legislation that was supposedly designed to protect children from gay rights evangelism.

To parts of the gay rights lobby, this measure was a symbol of brutal repression, a step so intolerant that it made the Winter Games at Sochi an affront to humanity. National treasure Stephen Fry was so incensed that he even penned a letter to David Cameron, urging that the Winter Olympics should be held anywhere but Russia, since Putin's hostility to gays was similar to the Nazis' persecution of the Jews. 'An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics is simply essential. At all events, Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world. He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did the Jews, ' wrote Fry.

But there have been no such fulminations over England's sporting links with the far more bigoted regimes of the Indian sub continent. In fact, Russia decriminalised homosexual activity in 1993, soon after the collapse of Soviet tyranny, whereas the criminal bans have remained in place not just in Bangladesh and India, but also in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, two of the other top cricket nations from the subcontinent that will be playing in the T20 tournament next month.

Less than six months ago, the government of Bangladesh, whose population is largely Muslim, openly rejected calls from the United Nations to decriminalise homosexuality, arguing that to do so would 'conflict with the sociocultural values of the country'. …

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