LGBTQ Ukrainians fear repression during Russian occupation

Ukrainian flag – Photo: Max Kukurudziak, via Unsplash.

Some LGBTQ Ukrainians fear the ramifications of a Russian occupation, which they say would lead to a crackdown on LGBTQ rights, especially if a pro-Russian puppet government is installed.

“It would mean a direct threat to me and most importantly, well, to me and to the person I love,” said Ilulia, an 18-year-old law student from the city of Kharkiv in the eastern region of the country. CBS News. “In Russia, LGBTQ people are persecuted. If we imagine that Russia occupies all of Ukraine or only a large part of the country, they will not allow us to exist peacefully and fight for our rights as we are able to do in Ukraine right now.

In Russia, same-sex marriages are banned and the country has had a law in place since 2013 that prohibits so-called “gay propaganda” which prohibits organizations and schools from presenting information that presents homosexuality as a normal sexual orientation , or promotes “non-traditional sex” to minors.

By law, advocates are prohibited from speaking or presenting LGBTQ-related information, even in a neutral light, such as a pamphlet warning of the risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections marketed to gay men . Violators can be forced into multiple operations if found guilty under the law, and foreigners who break the law can be fined or arrested and detained for up to 15 days before being deported.

Nor has the Russian government taken decisive action to end human rights abuses in Chechnya, an autonomous Muslim-majority region of the country that has come under intense scrutiny in recent years in because of its persecution of gay and bisexual men.

Hundreds of men were reportedly arrested and held against their will, tortured and, in some cases, even killed. Those who are eventually released are monitored by local authorities and have even been falsely accused of “terrorism” in order to prevent them from wandering off, thereby trapping them in the area and putting them at increased risk of future mistreatment.

“We still have a lot to do regarding our rights and freedoms, but in Ukraine you can fully express yourself,” Ilulia added. “It’s much safer than in Russia, believe me. It’s much easier.

Edward Reese, project assistant for Kyiv Pride, contrasted the freedoms Ukrainians enjoy compared to Russia, even though the society is more conservative than countries in Western Europe and the Americas.

“Ukraine is a European country. We have a 10-year history of pride marches, and as you know, in Russia the situation is like the reverse,” Reese told CBS News. “We have totally different backgrounds. … We see the changes in people’s thoughts on human rights, LGBTQ, feminism, etc. … So we absolutely don’t want anything related to Russia … and we won’t get them.

Reese said the LGBTQ community has helped raise money for Ukrainian forces, with Kyiv Pride even offering a first aid course to its members to help anyone injured in the fighting.

Last week, the United States sent a letter to the United Nations warning that Russia had created a “kill listof Ukrainians attacked or detained in the event of an invasion. The list would name prominent journalists, human rights activists, ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTQ Ukrainians – all of whom would be natural enemies of Russia’s right-wing authoritarian government.

Some LGBTQ Ukrainians have signed up for the Territorial Defense Forces to repel the Russian invasion, according to the daily beast.

“Many LGBT+ activists, who have experience participating in Euromaidan events, join the Territorial Defense Forces or undergo paramedic training,” Andrii Kravchuk, who works at the Nash Svit-based LGBTQ center, told the publication. in Kyiv. “LGBT+ people who served in the military and military volunteers are ready to return to service. We do the same as the rest of the nation.

“Now we have only two options: either we defend our country, and it will become part of the free world, or there will be no freedom for us and it will no longer be Ukraine at all,” he said. he added.

In a related story, a group of Russian soldiers in Kharkiv who had been absent were beaten and captured by LGBTQ activists, according to Israel Hayom. The soldiers reportedly hid in a basement that was used by the city’s LGBTQ community, but were quickly discovered and detained.

“This is our war, Ukrainians, but we are also fighting as LGBTQ people, and I’m sure the comrades in Kharkiv have understood that,” Viktor Pilipanko, a Ukrainian LGBTQ rights activist, told the magazine. Israeli. “We are facing a tyrannical and homophobic enemy.”

Michael A. Bynum