On Homophobia in Ukraine and its consequences
An open letter has been addressed to the President, Prime Minister and leaders of the main political parties regarding recent demonstrations of homophobia. It calls for a clear stand to be taken by political forces and specific measures to counter such hate crimes. It can be endorsed by writing to shuraZ[at]gay.org.ua
The authors write that recently “pro-Russian so-called “Cossacks”, aggressive pseudo-Christian activists and radical Ukrainian nationalists have unfurled an unprecedented campaign aimed at inciting enmity and hatred towards the LGBT community. This, as could be expected, has led to threats to use physical force and to actual violence.
These events compel us to call upon you, as public figures and leaders of political parties asserting their commitment to the ideas of contemporary European democracy and freedom, to openly and publicly declare your position regarding overt and rabid homophobia in Ukraine. You cannot place the responsibility for these decisions on others’ shoulders, nor will the problems resolve themselves. Neither LGBT Ukrainians, nor the standards of contemporary European democracy are going to disappear. It is your own failure to act and fostering of incitement to enmity against an innocent group of your own compatriots which has allowed this surge of hatred and violence on Kyiv streets on the eve of Euro 2012.
The events of 20 May in Kyiv vividly demonstrated the urgent need for decisive measures to fight homophobia at government level. The government and political forces should not encourage homophobic rhetoric, not shut their eyes to the promotion of homophobia and not allow themselves to be led by primitive prejudice. They must openly and consistently work to develop tolerance in society and respect for the human individual. It is not the behaviour of law-abiding Ukrainian LGBT who are fully entitled to exercise their constitutional rights which is leading to violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, but homophobia. We demand that the necessary measures be taken to fight homophobia and the violence and discrimination which it engenders.
We would draw your attention to the fact that Ukraine still does not have laws punishing hate crime and banning incitement to enmity and hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. We call on you to pass such laws without delay. We also demand a thorough and effective investigation of the events of 20 May in Kyiv. Those responsible must be found and punished, and the activities of the organizations guilty of the events banned.
When Yeshiva student, Aron Goncharov was brutally beaten up in Kyiv, the President of Ukraine immediately spoke of the xenophobic nature of the attack and ordered that those guilty be found and punished. Where is your reaction, Mr President, to this new hate crime? Where is the public reaction of other heads of government, of the Party of the Regions; the United Opposition; the People’s Party, UDAR, Civic Position? Where is your civic stand?”
The authors point out that Ukraine has been urged to fight homophobia and discrimination by leading international NGOs, European and international bodies, as well as democratic governments. It is time, they say, to make a choice, whether they are with people-hating homophobes or with the world of modern liberal democracy. It is “appalling to watch how you assiduously try to not notice this problem, using any means of distancing yourself and not expressing your personal attitude, of avoiding responsibility for resolving the problems. MPs from your supposedly pro-European political party put forward and vote for overtly homophobic and anti-constitutional draft laws, and you are silent. Methods of terror are being used in the streets of the capital against your fellow citizens, and you say nothing”.
“Choose who you are with and declare it openly. The time has come. Homosexuality is not an illness and does not require treatment. Homosexuals are normal people and have the same rights as other Ukrainian citizens. It is homophobia which is an aberration, like any form of xenophobia, however experience of countries of the free world have shown that it can be successfully overcoming by the joint efforts of concerned citizens and support from the government. Civic, political and public figures can and must overcome this form of xenophobia in Ukraine as well as others.
We demand that the Ukrainian government and politicians demonstrate through action their commitment to the ideas of modern European democracy. We demand equal respect, protection and observance of the rights of all Ukrainians regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. However, first must be the word, and that is up to you.
Co-Chair of the Council of LGBT Organizations of Ukraine
(Very slightly abridged from the original Ukrainian)
You can add your voice by writing to shuraZ [at] gay.org.ua