LGBT Voices for Equality: Ukraine
By Shawn M. Gaylord
Taras Karasiichuk, Executive Director of Gay Alliance Ukraine
In his Words
“We have sent letters to the police and they have said, ‘sorry but we don’t recognize any threats so we won’t investigate’. They tried to show, our government, tried to show some picture for abroad I think, but in context of real changes, of quality of LGBT movement, of LGBT community, nothing has happened. And what very important to add…In Ukraine, after this dignity of revolution—there are other groups in power. It’s our right-wing groups, right-wing politics, and what can I see right now is that government really don’t want to have deal with them…They are quite popular right now in Ukrainian society because they protect us in the East.”
LGBT people are vulnerable to discrimination and violence even in the most stable nations. In countries embroiled in tumult, the vulnerability is often magnified. Such is the case in Ukraine, where right-wing nationalist groups have amped up homophobic rhetoric, leading to escalating violence and driving LGBT Ukrainians underground.
These far-right nationalist groups are virulently anti-Russian and many are fighting in the war against Russian-backed separatists. Yet their anti-LGBT bigotry has a decidedly Russian flavor. Russia’s repression of the LGBT community is well-documented: Moscow banned LGBT Pride in the capital for 100 years in 2012, violent aggression against LGBT Russians goes largely unchecked by police, and President Putin signed into law the now-infamous legislation banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation” in 2013.
A similar piece of propaganda legislation surfaced in Ukraine, but the government dismissed it as part of efforts to strengthen ties with the European Union. Though anti-discrimination legislation may be a longshot, multiple bias-motivated attacks against LGBT Ukrainians have been ignored by the authorities.
This failure to protect LGBT citizens from violence is especially acute in June of each year, Pride month. In 2013, over a dozen people were arrested for violently attacking the peaceful Pride march in the capital. In 2012, after the cancellation of the march under threat of mass violence, the chief organizer of Kyiv Pride, Taras Karasiichuk, featured here, was brutally attacked outside of his apartment. This year, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko called for the march’s cancellation, dismissed the importance of the event, calling it “entertainment.”
As the hostility between Moscow and Kyiv endures, there is an ongoing war for Ukraine’s soul. Those who want a strong, united, and democratic Ukraine must commit to protecting all Ukrainians, including members of the LGBT community.