Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF), 2020. (AFP via Getty/ Fabrice COFFRINI)
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has promised to fight for LGBT+ equality following a meeting with US president Joe Biden.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has slowly introduced more rights for LGBT+ people, but still has a long way to go.
Same-sex couples are not able to have any kind of legal recognition, and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is only outlawed in employment.
Queer Ukrainians face a huge amount of social stigma, violence and discrimination, in large part because of the influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus had called on Biden to raise the issue of LGBT+ rights with Zelenskyy on Wednesday (1 September), according to the Washington Blade, when the leaders met to discuss the relationship between Russia and the US.
In a letter, the caucus told Biden it was “alarmed at the introduction of several bills in Ukraine’s parliament that would harm Ukraine’s LGBT+ community”.
While the bills – including an attempt to re-criminalise same-sex relationships – had failed to pass, it said, “we expect that they will continue to be introduced and to be a threat to Ukraine’s LGBT+ community”.
Biden, who in February signed a historic memorandum calling for the worldwide protection of LGBT+ rights, listened and made LGBT+ rights a topic of discussion in the meeting.
Afterwards, Zelenskyy and Biden released the following joint statement: “With US support, Ukraine will continue to advance respect for human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international standards and obligations, as well as to fight racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and discrimination against the LGBT+ community.
“Ukraine plans to strengthen accountability for violence against all persons regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political views, including through legislation.”
Police recently clashed with neo-Nazis at a Pride event in Odessa, Ukraine
Just this week, police violently clashed with and arrested dozens of neo-Nazis who descended on a Pride event in Odessa, Ukraine.
Members of Tradition and Order, an extreme neo-Nazi group, hurled tear gas and buttressed flags as police attempted to shield Pride-goers.
At least 29 police enforcement officers suffered injuries during the violent clash.
While the National Police insisted that officers had “used proper means to stop the offence”, Pride organisers disagreed.
Odessa Pride organisers said in a statement: “Those who attacked demonstrators should be punished for physical and psychological violence against citizens of Ukraine.
“Odessa police should be punished for standing idle during a crime.”