Amid Threats of Violence, United States Urged to Press for Protection of Kiev Pride Participants
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today called on the State Department to press the Ukrainian government to provide protection to organizers and participants of Pride events taking place in Kiev this weekend. Ukrainian activists have reported threats of violence against the annual parade that is set to take place on Sunday.
“We are alarmed by threats of violence being made against those who plan to peacefully walk in celebration of diversity as part of the Kiev Pride march this Sunday,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “We applaud the ways that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine has already been engaged on issues of LGBT rights, and we encourage them to continue their efforts. Pride is an important time for the global LGBT community to stand up for the human rights of all people, and we encourage the Ukranian government to take action to ensure that the rights of all citizens are protected as events unfold this weekend in Kiev.”
From June through August each year Pride events take place around the world in support of LGBT equality. In 2015, attackers at Kiev Pride injured at least one participant, while the scheduled 2014 march was shut down due to threats of violence and a lack of police protection.
In recent months U.S. government officials, including the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, have actively engaged with Ukranian authorities to encourage support and protection of Ukraine’s LGBT community. Last month a bipartisan group of 38 members of Congress wrote a letter to the ambassador of Ukraine expressing support for the protection of the rights of Ukraine’s LGBT community to safely organize.
“We ask that the Ukrainian Government… support upcoming Pride events,” wrote the group. “Brave activists are continuing efforts to promote the concerns of the LGBT community and to create a space to celebrate their progress. The Ukrainian Government must stand with them and support their rights to free expression and physical safety.”
In mid-March, Equality Festival Lviv was forced to cancel its weekend events because venues retracted sponsorship, the local government banned all public events, and masked assailants issued an anonymous bomb threat. Local authorities failed to provide protection after threats against the festival, contributing to its cancellation. Activists reported that at least two individuals trying to attend the festival were severely beaten and police failed to investigate these crimes.
Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government work to prevent the spread of Russian-style propaganda laws in the surrounding region. Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Stop Russia from Exporting Homophobia,” details how Russia’s homophobic laws and policies have spread throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and outlines key steps that the U.S. government can take to stop the spread of laws and policies that infringe on the human rights of the LGBT community.