LGBT Rights Are Human Rights: Pride Under Threat in Ukraine

June 4, 2015


By Midushi Pandey, Intern Identity and Discrimination Unit Amnesty International USA

The month of June brings about many changes in the year: spring transitions to summer, schools let out for vacation, and LGBT Pride Month begins.

For many of us in the United States, Pride Month is a time of joy and celebration. We attend Pride parades in our big cities and small towns, decked in our finest rainbow Mardi Gras beads and waving our Pride Flags. Here in the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals baseball team and the Smithsonian Museums hold free Pride events. And this Pride Month, we await a landmark Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality now just a few weeks away. You’ll also see (and can join!) Amnesty members working for LGBT human rights at Pride events around the country.

Pride Month is about celebrating a simple truth: We’re here, we’re queer (or trans), get used to it.

For activists in other countries, however, that simple celebration of self is often fraught with real threats to life. Ukraine is one such country. In both 2012 and 2014, efforts to organize Pride celebrations were dashed when local authorities withdrew their promise to protect participants, and the same problem is happening this year. Although Kyiv Pride organizers hope to hold this year’s event on June 6, city administrators and the local police have failed to meet with organizers to plan security measures for this event.

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Ukrainians, each day comes with the threat of verbal abuse or intimidation, loss of employment, and potential violence. Polls in Ukraine indicate widespread homophobic views: a poll by the Ukraine Gay Alliance and Ukraine State Sociological Institute found that 63% of respondents labeled homosexuality as a “perversion” and a “mental disease.”

Since the 2014 “Maidan revolution,” Ukrainian authorities have softened their anti-LGBT rhetoric in order to strengthen ties with their partners in the European Union. At the same time, however, they have resisted EU recommendations to officially adopt legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. On the ground, the threat of anti-LGBT violence remains real in post-Maidan Ukraine, as evidence most dramatically by the October 2014 attack on a historic Kyiv theater screening an LGBT film.

At the very core of this situation is the failure by Ukrainian leaders to recognize LGBT rights as human rights. Although the Maidan revolution sought to bring the country in line with the liberal values and democratic freedoms of Europe, Ukraine’s LGBT community has been left behind.

At its core, Kyiv Pride represents the fundamental human rights of LGBT Ukrainians and their allies to assemble peacefully, express themselves, and celebrate that simple truth. The refusal of the Kyiv police to arrange security for the Pride march is both a dereliction of duty and a violation of the participants’ human rights.

As we celebrate Pride 2015, Amnesty International reaffirms our dedication to ensuring that all LGBT people can peacefully celebrate without fear for their lives. Regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or the country where they live or originate, all people should be able to exercise their full human rights. Join us in calling on Ukrainian authorities to ensure that LGBT activists and Kyiv Pride participants are able to exercise their right to peacefully assemble.

Happy Pride 2015!

Ian Lekus, Amnesty International USA LGBT Thematic Specialist, contributed to this post.