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Ikea dumps lesbians due to Russia anti-gay law

Published: 20 Nov 2013 16:44 GMT+01:00

The interview between Clara and Kirsty from Dorset in the UK appears in the latest edition of Ikea Live, a magazine distributed to the company's customers in Europe enrolled in the company's Ikea Family customer loyalty programme.
 
But when an online version of the magazine was published on the company's Russian website, there was no sign of Clara or Kirsty or their story.
 
The reason? Russia's law banning "gay propaganda", Ikea spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson confirmed.
 
"That's the reason why Russia has another article," she told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
 
"We have two guiding principles in the communication we distribute from Ikea. The first is home interior design. The second is following the law."
 
She explained the decision was taken jointly by staff in Russia and Sweden in an attempt to "remain neutral".
 
"We think that our operations in Russia can, in the long run, have a positive effect on society," she added.
 
But the move was characterized as "cowardly" by gay rights activists in Sweden.
 
"I find it disappointing that Ikea has simply laid down flat," Ulrika Westerlund, chair of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), told The Local.
 
Back in June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors".
 
Critics of the law have argued that its vague wording in effect outlaws any form of expression of LGBT rights, including Pride parades, holding hands or kissing in public.
 
Westerlund explained that Ikea "missed an opportunity" to put the law to the test and position itself as a leader in corporate social responsibility when it comes to gay rights.
 
"No one is really sure what 'propaganda' is and if Ikea had left the article in, that could have served as a test case," she said.
 
The new law has cast a shadow over the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi with some international gay rights groups calling for a boycott. This call has however been rejected by some Russian LGBT activists who argue that it is counter-productive.

Swedish high-jumper Emma Green Tregaro caused a storm of controversy recently when she painted her nails in rainbow colours at the World Athletics Championships in a "silent protest" against the Russian law.

Westerlund also didn't buy Ikea's argument that the company could serve as a force for good in Russia by simply maintaining operations there.
 
"What difference does it make if they don't stand up for their values when it counts?" she added.
 
 

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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