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Ukraine: New report reveals endemic homophobia

Homophobia has reached endemic levels in Ukraine, a new report launched by Amnesty International revealed today.

The 17-page report was launched in Kiev a day before the International Day Against Homophobia, and just nine days before Kiev plans to hold its first Pride march.

Entitled Nothing to be proud of: Discrimination against LGBTI people in Ukraine, the report highlights a number of violent attacks on individuals. It concludes that, as a matter of urgency, the Ukrainian government must introduce legislation to address discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation to stop the problem spiralling out of control.

A Pride march planned for last May was cancelled at the last moment because of threats of violence and the failure of the Kiev police to put in place adequate security measures to protect marchers.

Immediately after the cancellation, and in the months that followed, some of the organisers were targeted and attacked with tear gas because of their association with the event. None of the investigations into these attacks has been concluded.

A further case highlighted in the report concerns Armen Ovcharuk. A young gay man, Armen was reportedly hit on the head as he walked from one gay nightclub in Kiev to another in the early hours of 22 October 2012. Witnesses called an ambulance. His friends reported the crime the following day and an investigation was subsequently started. Armen died of his injuries on 27 October, but so far Amnesty has received no response from the Ministry of Interior about the progress of the investigation into the attack, or whether it has been recorded and investigated as a hate crime.

Max Tucker, an Amnesty International expert on Ukraine, said:

“People have been beaten and in one case murdered because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of these crimes have not been properly investigated and have gone unpunished.

“To add insult to injury, the possibility of attack is now routinely used as an excuse to deprive gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people of their rights to express themselves, to associate and assemble, and to hold public events in a peaceful manner.

“The police must guarantee adequate police protection for LGBTI groups seeking to demonstrate peacefully. The police’s failure to adequately protect the participants and organisers of last year’s Kiev Pride march amounts to a violation of the participants’ right to freedom of assembly.

“The police must redress this failure by professionally ensuring Ukraine’s first LGBTI Pride march takes place on 25 May in Kiev without hindrance and with adequate police protection. A further failure to protect LGBTI groups exercising their right to peaceful assembly would not bode well for Ukraine’s aspirations to move closer to the European Union.

“If the government of Ukraine is to succeed in these ambitions it must bring its legislation into line with European human rights standards. It must ensure that all people, including LGBTI people, are treated equally.”

The report also details endemic discrimination by officials and members of the public towards LGBTI people. It also adds that attacks on LGBTI people are being fuelled by negative stereotypical and discriminatory statements from elected government officials and church leaders.

However, rather than addressing discrimination against LGBTI people, Parliament is now discussing laws criminalising the “propaganda of homosexuality” which will restrict fundamental human rights, including the freedom of expression and assembly.

Background information:
There is no legislation covering hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The absence of legislation makes it difficult to adequately investigate or prosecute these acts, made worse because homophobia is pervasive among those working for the police, prosecutors and the government.

For example, a 2013 law "On Principles of Prevention and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine" does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination.

A Ukrainian non-governmental organisation received 29 reports of violent attacks against LGBTI people by members of the public in Ukraine in 2012, and 36 reports of threats of violence. It has also has documented 49 cases of human rights violations committed by police against LGBTI people, including illegal detention, blackmail, torture and other ill-treatment in 2012.

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