The war in Ukraine has put LGBTQ + rights in check

The war in Ukraine has put LGBTQ + rights in check

At the end of April, one month after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, told the stories of some transgender women who could not leave the country or were forced into serious hardships because they were considered by border agents to be men because of the gender indicated on the papers. Ukrainian martial law imposed the day after the invasion clearly stipulates that all men between 18 and 60 must remain in the country to fight in the ranks of the army.

In Ukraine, the situation of the lgbtq + community worsened even more in the following weeks, when "the levels of violence and hatred towards them increased significantly, making even more evident the inexistence of protection mechanisms against such vulnerable people, ”Insight president Olena Schevchenko told The non-governmental association has been present since 2008 in eleven regions of the Ukrainian state, and at the moment it mainly supports refugees and LGBTQ + people who try to flee the war. “We offer safe shelters, humanitarian, psychological and legal support”, continues Schevchenko. Insight is one of the many associations that are part of Ilga, the international organization that has long been committed to facilitating the introduction of LGBTQ + rights around the world. In the list drawn up by Ilga to compare the treatment of LGBTQ + people in various European countries, Ukraine occupies the 37th place. “Hate crimes, discrimination and prejudice against Ukrainian LGBTQ + people are widespread. Politicians also use them to discredit their opponents, ”confirms Schevchenko.

Even on the other side of the border, in Russia's largest cities, LGBTQ + people find themselves between two poles. “On the one hand we see the strengthening of the government's homophobic rhetoric, especially now during the war. The rights of the lgbtq + community are a part of those values ​​considered "Western", which Russian officials have been trying to oppose for some time ", Aleksandr Voronov of the Coming out association, labeled by the Russian government as a" foreign agent ", tells and forced to leave the country with his colleagues. "On the other hand, Russian society is becoming more and more open, the level of homotransphobia in daily life has decreased and queer people appear in films as well," continues Voronov. Changes that, albeit small, manage to normalize the lives of many people. The Coming out association, which has been working on these issues since 2008, is based in St. Petersburg and organizes conferences, seminars, creates information material and monitors discrimination based on sexual orientation in the country. In addition to creating spaces, and thus legitimizing the presence of LGBTQ + people in Russia, it also guarantees free legal and psychological support services.

Transgender women are denied escape from Ukraine in war Gallery 4 Images by Mattia Tundo

Look at the gallery Persecutions in Russia Right now the hot topic that involves this community in Vladimir Putin's Russia is the specter of a new draft law aimed at banning the unspecified "gay propaganda", which would see children as victims of LGBTQ + people. The previous law entered into force in 2013 and four years later was defined by the European Court of Human Rights as discriminatory and harmful, as it encourages stigma, prejudice and homophobia. "In almost ten years of application, the sanctions provided for by the law have been applied to less than a hundred people," says Voronov, emphasizing that a more recent law such as that on fake news (which regulates which information can be conveyed or not on the war in Ukraine) resulted in far more arrests and sanctions.

The probability that the new bill will become law is high, however. "In this case, the organizations and LGBTQ + activists who openly oppose the government by participating in the protests and defending the rights of this community will be the first to be affected," comments Voronov. The intimidation could then also be aimed at those who shared posts on Facebook pro lgbtq +. A practice, that of controlling the contents on social media, which the Russian government often uses to suppress even the slightest dissent. A law, however, is only part of the daily challenges faced by LGBTQ + people in the Russian country. "The daily life of this community is not really influenced only by government regulations, but also by the environment. Our job is to improve the environment in which these people move, "concludes Voronov. After a year of launching an advocacy campaign to ensure that transgender people could obtain identity documents, the results of Coming Out's work have arrived. “Identity documents could previously only be requested in one's hometown, and in Russia the cost of flights to cross the country is very high. Now transgender people can get them over the internet, ”comments Voronov.

Attacks against activists and journalists in Georgia From a legislative point of view, protections against the lgtbq + community in Georgia are better. For ten years now, decisive steps have been taken which have led to the introduction of laws on anti-discrimination in the workplace as well as in the social field. Last year various organizations signed a memorandum with fifteen political parties (the most influential in the country, except the one in government) on the theme of homophobia in political discourse. A decisive first step even if, as often happens, jurisprudence is only the beginning of a longer path of social change. "The push of the European Council and the European Union to provide the country with a legislative framework in this area was decisive, but Georgian society is conservative and based on the traditional family", comments Giorgi Tabagari, organizer of the pride that takes place every year in the capital Tbilisi. "The real point is to understand what rights LGBTQ + people really have access to, regardless of the laws in force," continues Tabagari referring to the fact that the queer community is the only one in the country to which the right to gather is deprived: " we do it with fear and knowing that it is a dangerous situation ”.

The homophobic reactions of some conservative and far-right groups culminated last July, when during the first march for lgbtq + rights in the country more than fifty journalists reporting the event were physically attacked. One of them, a 37-year-old cameraman, died several days later from the violent beatings. During the event, Tabagari himself was also arrested for insulting a policeman while trying to save himself from homophobic attacks. Even if he was released immediately, he could face up to 15 days in jail. "Every time we organize the pride we are constantly threatened, intimidated, and discredited by the government, even indirectly, through the spread of fake news," says Tabagari. The three activists will be guests at Pride in Milan on 2 July.

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