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After the Russian government passed controversial anti-gay laws there have been increasing calls for us to Boycott Russian Vodka and the winter Olympics.
Mitch Hughes looks at the debate...

Things have been getting worse and worse for the LGBT community for years, but it is most recently that things are particularly bad. A 2013 survey found that 74% of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society. Although, homosexuality is still legal (and has been since 1993), and transsexual and transgender people can change their legal gender, after corresponding medical procedures (since 1997), there are still major problems that must be dealt with. 
It is time I believe that we must take a stand. We all must take a stand.

Did you know that; authorities still refuse to recognise the need in special legislation to protect people who identify as part of the LGBT community. Plus; Only opposite – sex couples are allowed to adopt, where as same-sex couples cannot.
However homosexual people can theoretically serve in the military, but is strongly advised that they conceal their sexual orientation, for the sake of personal safety. And finally of course; the right for anyone to speak publicly about homosexuality, this includes being openly gay or openly supporting LGBT rights, is currently in discussion by Russia's political leaders. Some regions of Russia have even gone as to already banning what is considered homosexual 'propaganda'.

So my question is this; should we boycott Russian brand vodka and the Winter Olympics?
I believe that boycotting these would really send a strong message to Russia's political leaders and that is the first step to equality. If we can make the people with the power to agree that something must be done, to protect the LGBT community from attack. I believe that in helping the leaders understand the importance of these issues, will influence how future generations of Russia, will be raised, thus changing and growing as a nation.
There are even neo-Nazi groups, that have been known to lure gay teenagers into an online dating scam. They record their victims, as they bully and torture them. Many of the victims have been driven to suicide. This maybe one of the most pressing reasons why change needs to occur.
I asked 10 people in Stoke- on- Trent, England to read the previous paragraphs and asked for their comments and will they be boycotting along with myself.
One woman I asked (whom identified as heterosexual) commented; 'I do agree that something should be done, but boycotting the Olympics... I'm not so sure on. The athletes have had to work very hard to get the where they are and deserve to be supported'.
I can see her point, however I believe that people's right to equality, human rights and to not be afraid, to be a far greater importance. So I ask you, will you join me boycotting Russian vodka and the Winter Olympics?  

Original artwork also by Mitch.

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