Attacks and homophobic law plague Ukrainian LGBTs
Attacks on gay activists in the Ukraine have drawn attention to the worsening situation for LGBT people in the former Soviet country. Increased hooliganism and a “gay gag” law currently before the parliament in Kiev has made the country the focus of human rights groups worldwide, including AllOut.org.
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This week, millions saw this dramatic photo and related video of gay activists in Kiev being attacked by neo-Nazi extremists. As early as this week, Ukraine’s parliament is expected to vote in favour of new laws that will make it illegal to “promote homosexuality” in public. The situation is eerily similar to measures that have been enacted in Russia to suppress LGBT human rights.
The attack pictured occurred on May 20, after the head of Gay Forum in Ukraine, Sviatoslav Sheremet, and fellow Pride organizer Maksym Kasianchuk had held a press conference to address the cancellation of their parade by police. During the press conference, the activists were attacked by masked men with pepper spray. Shermet was beaten, kicked, and stomped on by masked thugs in the chaos that ensued when neo-Nazi hooligans “spread throughout the city and began to attack people,” according to the Daily Mail.
Sheremet and Kasianchuk had hoped to take advantage of media attention in the build-up to the Euro 2012 soccer championship (June 8- July 1) to hold the parade openly, but, as often occurs in Eastern Europe and Russia, police moved to cancel the parade “to protect participants’ safety.” A senior police official told pride organizers that he was unwilling to put his officers between the small group of parade participants and a larger 500-person strong group of “football hooligans” who had planned to intercept the parade.
The attacks have drawn attention to the so-called “Gay Gag Law” that is currently before the Ukraine parliament.
“Our society is traditional and just does not tolerate homosexuality,” anti-gay lawmaker Yehen Tsarkov told the Kyiv Post. “If some people are suffering from the mental illness of homosexuality, they should not display it in public and promote it to children,” he added. Tsarkov is a member of Ukraine’s Communist Party and one of the authors of the bill. “At least nine other members of parliament actively support Tsarkov’s position and wrote a letter to Kyiv municipal authorities demanding that they ban the parade to protect morals,’” the Kyiv Post‘s Svitlana Tuchynska reports.
AllOut.org has launched a petition which they plan to send to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in an attempt to stop the bill from becoming law. Such a law is expected to hinder the country’s potential to join the European Union, which in the end may be the only argument that will sway politicians who are appealing to a socially conservative voter base.
“People who attack gays are usually same right wing activists who attack foreigners and people of dark skin color. This issue needs to be addressed by the government,” Sheremt told the Kyiv Post. Indeed, as the Euro 2012 championship approaches, an alarming anti-immigrant sentiment is growing in the Ukraine: neo-Nazi groups have threatened to attack UK soccer players and fans of Afro-Caribbean and Asian heritage.