By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com February 03 2014 4:32 PM ET
Human rights activists gathered in Paris on Saturday to stage a visual protest highlighting the ongoing human rights violations reported in Winter Olympic host country Russia.
Demonstrators associated with several nongovernmental organizations gathered in brightly colored monochrome jumpsuits to form a human representation of the Olympic Rings, then held up graphic depictions of antigay and anti-opposition repression that has become common in modern Russia.
"People have an image of Russia of things getting better," Stephan Oberreit, director general of Amnesty International France, told Reuters. "No, there are problems in Russia, and we have to remember that we are not just buying gas, or selling weapons, or technology to the Russians, [or] having cultural exchanges. There's human rights violations, and the wider public has to acknowledge that."
Russia enacted a nationwide ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" in areas visible to minors last summer, which has already seen activists, international journalists, and local media outlets fined for violating the law. Reports of vicious anti-LGBT attacks in Russia continue — sometimes perpetuated by police or former military officials, but are rarely prosecuted since coming out is essentially criminalized by the "gay propaganda" ban.
Despite numerous assurances from various Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, many activists remain concerned that LGBT athletes and spectators will not be safe in Sochi during the Games. President Putin himself rejected these concerns last month, saying that gay people will be safe in Sochi, as long as they "leave children in peace."
Watch Reuters's report on Saturday's demonstration below.