As things are gearing up for the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest, many LGBT+ people are asking “Are Ukraine & Kyiv safe for me?” IGLA-Europe has ranked Ukraine as one of the worst places in Europe for LGBT+ people to live in. escunited.com has teamed up with Gay Alliance Ukraine to bring up an awareness about the current situation with regards to LGBT+ people in Ukraine.
The Gay Alliance Ukraine is engaged in supporting and developing the LGBT community in Ukraine, protecting human rights for LGBT+ people. “Despite the fact that the situation in Ukraine with regards to LGBT rights is gradually improving, we still cannot say that the life of LGBT+ people can be considered safe” Anna Leonova, the executive director of Gay Alliance Ukraine explained. “Over the past 2 years, LGBT+ people have been repeatedly attacked, exposed to physical and psychological abuse and discriminated at work.” she added.
This year’s slogan for the Eurovision Song Contest is “Celebrating Diversity”. As a journalist and fan of the biggest music competition in Europe, I wanted to follow up and find out if this also applies to the LGBT+ community members living in Ukraine. “This year’s Eurovision slogan carries a positive message, however Eurovision is not only a slogan. The event that is carrying this slogan will be conducted by 3 men, which makes me wonder whether this diversity is so widely practiced. At the same time, I don’t think that the slogan “Celebrating Diversity “is a purposeful attempt for wishful thinking. Ukraine is on the way to change!” Anna told us.
Jamala won last year’s competition in Stockholm, with her entry 1944, a song about Stalin’s deportation of the minority group of the Crimean Tatars. In a recent interview with Gay Times, Jamala proudly stated “I have a huge LGBT+ following and they’re very special to me – I’m a proud supporter”. The magazine also refers to Jamala as one of Russia and Ukraine’s biggest LGBT rights activists,
But what is Jamala doing to help LGBT+ people in her beloved homeland? “Jamala is a very popular singer in Ukraine and of course, she has a lot of LGBT+ who support her music. Words spoken from the stage for a wide audience can really change the attitude of people not just to LGBT+ people issued but also on other issues. Unfortunately, currently in Ukraine there is no celebrity who clearly have expressed their unequivocal support for the LGBT community. After all, to make such statements in Ukraine you need to be a very brave person. Jamala’s words about equality for all minorities, including LGBT+ people, is an important step towards public support.”
Ukraine is hoping that soon all its citizens will have Visa-free travel to the European Union countries, Switzerland, Iceland & Norway. Things are looking good for this country. “The LGBT+ pride of 2016 can be safely called a great success for the community in Ukraine. It was only in 2016 that the government and the law enforcement agencies passed this kind of test for tolerance, which was to ensure the safety of the participants during the March of Equality. Last year, for the first time in the history of Ukraine, we received broad support from many organisations. During the March for Equality, many concerned citizens of Ukraine came out to support the idea of equality for each and every person. I hope that this trend will continue” Anna confirmed.
But the biggest question still remains there. Is Kiev safe for LGBT+ People? “In Kiev, the national police of Ukraine perform the most professional work, which in many ways provides greater security for LGBT+ people in comparison to other cities in Ukraine. In addition to this, in Kiev, you can find the majority of human rights organisation and this is an important factor for a more rapid response of police to violations and attacks.”
Another important concern to many LGBT+ journalists and fans is how they will survive the 2 weeks in Kiev, besides going to Euroclub. “In Kiev, there are several gay nightclubs, they are quite popular and safe. However visitors to gay clubs still need to be alerted, and always need to be careful of leaving the club alone. Also in Kiev, one can find parks where gay people meet but when visiting these parks also be aware at all times. However, with the use of dating apps such as Grindr and Hornet, gay people need to be careful and always double check who you will be meeting. There is a risk of fake profiles which are created by radical groups to attack gay people. Such attacks are very common in Ukraine. The cases of attacks after online dating have become less frequent, mostly due to the fact that users have become more careful before meeting people” Anna advises.
“There is no universal rule for safe behavior in Ukraine. One should remember that Ukraine is a country in the eastern territories of which military operations are taking place. There is a high level of internal migration and an increase in criminal activity. Nevertheless, in large cities such as Kiev, everything is calm. In addition, law enforcement agencies and also the Ukrainian citizens are preparing for having a safe and memorable Eurovision.” Anna Leonova concluded.
Here are a few incidents that have occurred in Ukraine when it comes to the LGBT+ community.
June 2015 – Kiev Pride
Radical groups attacked LGBT+ people who were marching for Equality. Participants of the march and law enforcement officers were injured.
August 2015 – Odessa Pride
Radical groups attacked a private & closed event.
More Accidents during 2015
Two attacks made on the LGBT+ community centres in Odessa & in Krivoy Rog. During the attack on the Queer Home in Krivoy Rog, one member of the Gay Alliance Ukraine was injured and taken to hospital.
March 2016 – Lviv
Hundreds of neo-Nazis supporters surrounded the building in which the Festival of Equality was being held, in which, during the event, one of the topics was about various LGBT+ issues.
Igor Zakhrarchenko, an activist from Odessa was attacked several times. Despite reporting these incidents to the police, no one was brought to justice, even though the criminals were recognised and detained almost immediately.
If #YOU would like more information about the current situation in Ukraine, you can talk to us on our Facebook page or by sending us an e-mail on [email protected]. If you would like to contact the Gay Alliance Ukraine for more information, you can do so by sending them an e-mail on [email protected] or by calling them on +38 (044) 3838226.