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 lobby them against awarding the 2036 Olympics to a homophobic regime.
Some of the world’s leading anti-LGBTQIA tyrannies are bidding to stage the games, including Qatar, China, Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt and Hungary. Giving any of them the Olympics would not be consistent with an event the IOC claims will “celebrate humanity.”
I thought India was a democracy but I was wrong. The day after I arrived in Mumbai, six police officers turned up at my hotel and placed me under “preventative detention” in my room. I was not allowed to leave, not even to get food and water. Four police were posted guard to prevent me from leaving. Only after the intervention of the British Foreign Office was the “house arrest” order lifted. But I am still banned from “protesting, lobbying, leafleting or holding a press conference” about the anti-LGBTQIA policies of key countries seeking to host the 2036 Olympics.
2036 is the 100th anniversary of 1936 Olympics — staged by a homophobic, anti-Semitic Nazi dictatorship. There is a real risk that 2036 will echo those shameful fascist games.
Just look at the line-up of likely or confirmed bidders. They all criminalize homosexuality or otherwise abuse LGBTQIA human rights — and variously also violate the rights of women, refugees, workers, atheists and ethnic and religious minorities.
The stated and probable contenders for the 2036 Olympics include:
LGBTQIA Qataris suffer street harassment by police, online entrapment, imprisonment, torture and so-called “honor” killing; as well as abusive state-backed conversion treatments. These fake “cures” not long ago resulted in at least one gay Qatari committing suicide. The media depict stereotyped, cliched and demonizing caricatures of LGBTQIAs. Women and migrant workers are treated as second- and third-class citizens.
New Administrative Capital, Egypt
Vague “morality” charges are used to prosecute LGBTQIA people, female social media influencers and rape survivors who speak out. Police exploit dating apps to lure gay and bisexual men to rendezvous and then arrest and jail them — often after torture and blackmail to force them to name other LGBTQIAs. Waving a rainbow flag can get you imprisoned. Protests are brutally suppressed.
Repression is increasing against the LGBTQIA community, with the forced closure of LGBTQIA centers and WeChat groups. The state has ordered TV to be cleansed of so-called “effeminate” men. Lesbian and trans women are under further pressure as a result of the new gender law which requires women to “respect and obey … family values.” Over a million Uyghur Muslims, some of them 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 jails political opponents, including LGBTQIAs like Cihan Erdal. Pride parades are regularly banned and violently attacked by the police, with many participants arrested and beaten. President Erdogan has labelled the LGBTQIA community as “deviants.” He’s vowed to defend the traditional family and to combat what he calls “perverse” social trends. His regime is terrorizing the Kurdish minority with armed raids on Kurdish villages and the bombing of Kurdish regions in northern Syria. LGBTQIAs are among the many victims of this anti-Kurdish terror campaign.
Indonesia enacted a new criminal code in 2022 that violates international human rights standards. Marginalized social groups — including women, LGBTQIAs and religious and ethnic minorities — are often ill-treated with no redress. Gay venues are raided by police. Homosexuality is outlawed in the provinces of South Sumatra and Aceh (where LGBTQIAs can also be publicly caned.) A 2008 anti-pornography law has been manipulated to prosecute gay and bisexual men. The military is accused of a slow genocide in occupied West Papua. Tens of thousands indigenous people have been massacred.
The prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has decried what he calls the EU’s pro-LGBTQIA “offensive.” His government has ended the legal recognition of trans people and banned so-called “homosexual and transgender propaganda” that could be seen by under 18s. Discrimination against LGBTQIA people, women and Roma persists, mostly unchecked. Same-sex couples and individuals are barred from adopting children. Pushbacks against migrants and refugees continue, with LGBTQIA people fleeing persecution almost never granted asylum.
The IOC should not grant any of these countries the prize of the 2036 Olympics. LGBTQIA freedom and other human rights must be prioritized over profits, glitz and showmanship. If it colludes with the contending homophobic regimes, the IOC will betray the LGBTQIA victims of oppression and tarnish its own reputation.
Hosting the Olympics is a privilege, not a right. It comes with obligations and these must include adherence to international and IOC human rights standards. No country should be rewarded for despotism — or for homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersexphobia.
The IOC Congress in Mumbai will be a success only if it agrees that the Olympics will never again be awarded to an authoritarian regime that tramples on human rights — no matter how much cash and how many promises they flash at 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 human rights and LGBTQIA campaigning.