Far-right hate groups shut down an LGBTQ rights event in Ukraine amidst rising attacks on queer and trans people in the European country.
On Thursday, more than 20 anti-gay protesters descended upon “The Offensive Against LGBTQ Rights As a Form of Censorship: The Russian Experience,” an event held at the Underhub coworking space in Kiev. Advocates from organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Kiev Pride were set to speak at the public gathering.
But the show would not go on.
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The mob of protesters threatened organizers of the event with violence unless they cancelled the presentation. Under pressure from the anti-LGBTQ objectors, the building manager advised human rights groups to shutter the event.
Law enforcement officials from the local Pechersk District Police failed to defend the right of LGBTQ people to organize, as Amnesty International reports.
Organizers in charge of the event wouldn’t be permitted to safely leave the premises without fear of reprisal for another hour, until human rights groups called the City Patrol Police. Although no people were injured during the altercation, police officers also failed to arrest a single member of the hostile mob.
Advocacy organizations working in favor of queer and trans equality in Ukraine say the unwillingness to intervene is customary.
Despite the fact that there have been more than 30 attacks on LGBTQ advocates and women’s rights activists in recent months, Amnesty claims the perpetrators of this violence “act openly and with near-total impunity.” In a press release, the organization says hate groups frequently brag about “the incidents on social media.”
“In just one case, an attack on the Festival of Equality in the city of Zaporizhzhya in September 2017, the perpetrators were arrested and put on trial,” Amnesty claims.
LGBTQ Ukrainians have been subject to extremely frequent attacks in recent years, even as the country embraces liberalism in an attempt to appeal to the European Union. President Petro Poroshenko’s government signed an anti-discrimination law in 2015 updating the country’s labour code to prohibit bias on the basis of sexual orientation.
While neighboring Russia pushed an anti-gay “propaganda” bill criminalizing the spread of information on “nontraditional relationships,” a similar proposal banning gay movies from being shown in Ukraine was killed.
But as anti-gay hate crimes doubled in Russia in recent years, Ukraine has followed suit.
In 2014, a homophobic mob burned a theater to the ground which was screening an LGBTQ-themed film. A year later neo-Nazis attacked a guest hosted by the community organization Queer Home, bloodying his face while screaming “Death to fags!” Around the same time, dozens of attackers targeted a Pride march in Kievpelting attendees with smoke bombs and tear gas.
Because Ukraine lacks LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime laws, these crimes are commonly referred to as “hooliganism.”
And even as President Poroshenko makes overtures toward embracing queer and trans equality, homophobia remains rampant among Ukraine’s lawmakers. Pavlo Unguryan, an evangelical minister and parliamentary leader, referred to homosexuality as a “treatable disease” in a 2015 television broadcast.
The public has likewise been slow to catch up as Ukraine attempts to make progress on LGBTQ rights.
In 2010, around two-thirds of Kiev residents told the Socis Sociological Center that being queer or transgender is a mental disorder. A later survey from the Kiev International Institute of Sociology showed that just four percent of Ukrainians claim a positive opinion of LGBTQ people.
Note: Human Rights Watch has not returned request for comment for this story, but it will be updated should the group respond.
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