While LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way in recent years, there are still so many countries in which the gay community is subject to persecution and even death. At least 10 countries have the death penalty if you are found to be homosexual including Sudan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.
In Russia, the current host of the World Cup, being gay isn’t a death sentence, but promoting it is illegal. Russia has strict laws about “the promotion of homosexuality” and waving the iconic rainbow flag is one of them. Being found guilty of spreading gay propaganda in Russia could land foreign visitors in jail for up to 15 days before being deported. But a group of LGBTQ+ activists used their time, and jerseys, at the World Cup to defy the law.
Six activists, four from Latin America, are bringing awareness to LGBT rights by displaying the rainbow flag in a very subtle way.
The group is part of an organization Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Trans y Bisexuales (FELGTB) that invited six activists from all over the world to highlight the discriminations against gays that are still going on today.
“Because of this, we have taken advantage of the fact the country is hosting the World Cup at the same time as Pride Month, to denounce their behavior and take the rainbow flag to the streets of Russia,” the group said on its website. “Yes, in the plain light of day, in front of the Russian authorities, Russian society and the whole world, we wave the flag with pride. How? In a way that no one would ever suspect. Football shirts.”
The six activists have been posing all over Russia wearing football shirts that fall in line with the rainbow flag colors.
The colors includ the countries of Spain, The Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, and are worn by Marta Márquez, Eric Houter, Eloi Pierozan Junior, Guillermo León, Vanesa Paola Ferrario, and Mateo Fernández Gómez.
Last year Alexei Smertin, a Russian soccer official, had said that the LGBT flag would be welcomed during the World Cup, however, that has not been the case.
“There will definitely be no ban on wearing rainbow symbols in Russia,” Smertin told The Guardian last year in anticipation of the World Cup in Russia. “It’s clear you can come here and not be fined for expressing feelings. The law is about propaganda to minors. I can’t imagine that anyone is going to go into a school and propagate that way to children.”
But that ordinance has not been followed. The video above is proof of that, and last month a Gay Rights activist was arrested when he expressed outrage of how the gay community was treated in Russia.
While the project — titled Hidden Flag — looks really amazing, at least one activist says he was really scared about what could happen if they got in trouble.
Gómez, wearing the Colombia jersey, said the whole experience was not as fun as it looks.
“I was scared shitless,” he said on Instagram. “Still I was in Russia only for 3 days, of which I spent 15 hours retained in customs in the airport. But now I’m free to be myself. In Russia people don’t have that basic right.”
He adds that “out of this scary, marvelous, cool, humbling experience” he was able to meet five activists that he is now bonded with for life. “I got to meet what I can now call my gay/straight brothers and sisters in arms. Beautiful, good hearted, strong people. 3 days with you keeping the flag in order always being last in everything, taught me more than a life time of what I can now call gay privilege.”
See more pictures by clicking on #TheHiddenFlag.