Letter from Oslo

Sothchi OL, principle 6 and “the outlawed” amongst us.

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By Nina Hanssen, journalist and Auhtor

 Jambo Kenya!

Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. Proud of our winter sports heritage, many of us spend many hours in front of the TV during Sothci OL.

This week Norway won double gold in the cross-country freestyle sprints, silver medals in the women’s sprint and in the women’s 10-kilometer biathlon pursuit. That gave the Norwegians the medal lead on the fifth day of the games.

But many Norwegians also use this opportunity to speak up against inhumane treatment of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transpersons in Russia. The Russian law, which criminalizes public displays of support for gays and lesbians, has drawn international condemnation from many.

This week many athletes, politicians, activists, writers and celebrities joined the campaign “Principle 6” developed by The Norwegian LGBT organization. Politicians and trade unionist also put their red T-shirt on to support this simple message: Any form of discrimination is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement. The organisers of Principle 6 urge Norwegians at home or abroad to abide by the Olympic ideals, and to actively speak up against inhumane treatment of these groups.

For me as a journalist concerned about human right issues and democracy it is my duty to speak up against inhumane treatment of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transpersons in both Russian, Norway and Kenya. President Vladimir Putin promised us no discrimination against gays during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort, but a lot of media articles, You Tube Videos and photos have shown us that the situation is bad.

According to human right activists LGBT people face stigma, harassment, and violence in their everyday lives in Russia.

The Russian LGBT Network conducted an anonymous survey on discrimination against LGBT populations in Russia in 2013. According to the survey more than 50 percent of the 2,007 respondents had experienced psychological abuse, and 15 percent had experienced physical violence. Only 6 percent of victims contacted police.

 Same-sex marriage became legal in Norway in 2009 when a gender neutral marriage bill was enacted one year earlier. Norway became the sixth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage and in . 2011 the public LGBT knowledge Centre was launched. The aim is to increase knowledge about the lives of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons in Norway and in the world. This centre was launched as part of the implementation of the Norwegian Government's Action Plan, “Improving Quality of Life Among Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans Persons” (2009-2012 - PDF).

Homosexuality is still illegal and taboo in many African countries. I have also noticed the raging debate between Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK and the heads of the Anglican Church in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.  Split looms between British Anglican headquarters and its Kenyan province as Archbishop Eliud Wabukala scoffs at the primate of Canterbury’s call for gay rights recognition.

For me having many gay and lesbian friends in Norway, I cannot understand why homosexuality still could be taboo in Kenya and that the state punishes same-sex sexual acts as crimes. We know that the situation is difficult for many also in Kenya.

In 2011 the Kenya Human Rights Commission published a study of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community’s search for equality and non-discrimination in Kenya. The report “The outlawed amongst us really shocked me.

I am happy for the Olympic medals from Russia, but as many others I am concerned about the situation for the LGBTI-people in both Russia and Kenya.

So this week I will wear the red T-skirt to speak up against inhumane treatment of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transpersons. The Norwegian campaign “Principle 6 should also have brave supporters in Kenya among the politicians, athletes and even journalists. I think the reknowned Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina was brave when he revealed he is a homosexual in a published story entitled “I am a Homosexual, Mum”. We need more people like Wainaina to speak up and be proud in Kenya. Nobody should be punished with prison sentences for their love.

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