Kiev Pride 2016: Why are Ukraine’s Politicians Silent on Attacks Against LGBT People?

By Inna Shevchenko forĀ ibtimes.co.uk

After the Maidan revolution, or as it is often called, “the Ukrainian Revolution of dignity”, the newly elected president launched a process of so called “de-communization”, to physically and psychologically erase the remains of the country’s Soviet past. The goal of this process, often employing dictatorial methods, was for post-revolution Ukraine to gain distance from Putin’s Russia and its values, as well as to strongly associate Ukraine with European values and the EU-integration path.

The claims of President Poroshenko about Ukraine now being a European nation with European values attracted the attention of the international community and created hopes in the minds of Ukrainians in the country and in exile abroad, like me. However, today, Ukrainians feel deceived by Poroshenko’s and MPs’ failure in changing the country, which resulted in a strong devaluation of the national currency and continued corruption after the revolution. Moreover, the President and Ukrainian politicians failed or deliberately avoided public debates in order to address the needs of social reforms in the country, in favour of these praised European values.

On Sunday 12 June, the Ukrainian LGBT community is organising a Gay Pride march in the centre of Kiev. Hundreds of participants have confirmed they will attend the event on social networks. However, shortly after the announcement from the organisers, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) released a statement in which they promised to not let the event happen. The statement said:

“Today, we are forced to accept LGBT marches and festivals, and thus join the ranks of sinners and those who cover them. Who is going to be equated on this Sabbath? Immoral freaks, clowns and degenerates will be equated with those who have honour and dignity, respect and love for their neighbour, soldiers who gave their lives and health protecting peace in the country?”

Following this release, other nationalist groups, among which the infamous Right Sector (Pravuy Sector), supported the initiative of the OUN to stop the LGBT community appearing in the streets of Kiev peacefully. The spokesperson of the Right Sector, who to my unpleasant surprise is now Artem Skoropadsky, a Russian born and former correspondent in one of the Ukrainian newspapers, declared: “Our colleagues from the OUN movement have released a strong statement about the gay parade in Kiev. In short, on June 12, there will be a bloodbath in Kiev. The organisers of the march still have time not to hold the march.”

These threats did not however trigger any reaction from Ukrainian authorities. Only after an official letter from the US Congress, Kiev’s mayor Vitaliy Klichko announced that he gave orders for special police protection for Gay Pride. But the story was far from over. A few days after the mayor’s declaration, a public petition demanding a ban of LGBT reunions in Kiev was sent to the Kiev city administration with the required 10,000 signatures to be considered by the mayor. Moreover, some policemen organised a protest in front of the Kiev police office stating that they, and many of their colleagues, are refusing to protect Gay Pride.

The outrage of nationalists and conservatives isn’t a big surprise given Ukrainian’s society traditionalism, which often holds patriarchal visions of family and marriage. However, what is truly disturbing is the silence of those who claimed that Ukraine is a country with European values.

While a few singers and celebrities supported the Gay Pride by writing messages on Facebook, high rank politicians as well as President Poroshenko chose to remain silent and ignore the threats against their fellow citizens. Most importantly, they ignored the chance to defend the European value of equality.

Shamefully, the Ukrainian LGBT community received the support of European and American politicians, some of which are planning to attend the event, but were ignored and forgotten by their own government.

Every year, attempts by LGBT activists to organise a pride parade end with violence and a campaign of humiliation by conservative radicals, all ignored by the political elite as a form of silent approval. Considering that the majority of the “new” members of the government have been in Ukrainian politics for one or two decades – President Poroshenko himself was a minister under Viktor Yanukovych – the opposition to gay-friendly laws and the failure to initiate a much-needed debate is not surprising. The hypocritical attitude of the political elite is devastating and neglects the Revolution of dignity and all its participants, those who are alive and those who died at Maidan.

By destroying the monuments of Lenin and forbidding Soviet literature in the country, the Ukrainian government promised to gain distance from Putin’s values and move forward on the path of European integration. However, homophobia and ignorance towards the LGBT community in Putin’s Russia is not much different from today’s situation in Ukraine, especially regarding the attitude of the authorities and political groups.

While Ukrainian society is ready to write a new history and liberate itself from the corrosive traditionalism and patriarchy, politicians have become the main obstacle, as they do not wish to lead the nation towards reform. The revolution began on the Maidan, it should continue with Gay Pride, and possibly soon with new elections, new demonstrations, and maybe even new Maidans. Ukrainians overthrew a cruel dictator and Putin’s puppet, Yanukovych, but many more who rule the country today have shown that they are going down the same path.

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