Kyiv Pride week events to raise awareness, defend LGBTQ rights

Ninety percent of Ukrainians are still unaware there are lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex people around them, at home, at work, in villages, towns and cities all over Ukraine, according to human rights activist Tymur Levchuk.

So to give the LGBTQ community more visibility, and to speak up for their rights, Ukrainian activists will for the fifth year in a row hold Kyiv Pride on June 9–17. The nine-day series of events in Kyiv, which will include conferences, movie screenings and artistic performances, will close with the Equality March on June 17.

“We want LGBTQ people to be not ashamed of who they are, we want to feel free in our country,” said Levchuk, the PR head of Kyiv Pride, at a press conference on the event on June 7.

Levchuk also heads Fulcrum, the biggest LGBT charity organization in Ukraine.

“Kyiv is a city where there should be no discrimination, violence or alienation,” he said. “This is a city where everyone can be themselves.”

The organizers expect about 5,000 people to attend the Equality March this year, and say they are cooperating with the police on security measures.

During the march in June 2017, about 5,000 police officers guarded 4,000 participants, with the event ending up being peaceful. But during the march in 2015, 10 people — including police officers guarding the event — were assaulted and badly injured.

Kyiv Pride’s organizers hope this year’s march will be peaceful, although they have been receiving threats from far-right radicals calling for violence against the LGBTQ community.

Human rights

Despite having improved over the last few years, the human rights situation for the LGBTQ community in Ukraine is still far from good.

Anna Sharyhina, an LGBTQ activist and Kyiv Pride’s program director, says that “we face barriers in legislation and stereotypes in society.”

Ukrainian legislation does not consider transphobia or homophobia as motives for cases of violence against LGBTQ people. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity are prohibited explicitly only in Ukraine’s Labor Code.

And the increase of the media attention to the issues of the LGBTQ community in Ukraine, which helps raise the community’s visibility, has also had negative consequences, says Maryna Shevtsova, a researcher at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation and an activist for TERGO, a non-government organization that helps the parents of LGBTQ people.

“A lot of people who were indifferent before have become intolerant because the LGBTQ community has more coverage,” the researcher said.

Homophobia and transphobia in the society are, however, hard to measure. Acts of violence against LGBTQ people are often under-reported due to the community’s lack of trust in the police.

Using surveys on gay dating websites and interviews, the Ukrainian non-government Nash Mir center documented 206 cases of violations of LGBTQ people’s rights in 2017. Most went unreported.

However, there is some progress — Ukraine is now ranked 36th out of the 49 European countries listed in the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s ranking of states’ observance of LGBTQ people’s rights. Ukraine was in 46th place in 2015.

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