The situation of LGBTI people in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine

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National LGBTI Consortium
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The legal status and guarantees of rights of LGBTI citizens in the temporarily occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas depend on the legislation applied in these territories.

Under Ukrainian law, LGBTI citizens have the right to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity but do not have the right to recognition of same-sex marriages or partnerships. From the perspective of Russian legislation de facto applied in the occupied territories, LGBTI citizens are deprived of the right to freely express their sexual orientation and gender identity by the so-called law on “propaganda of homosexuality among minors,” which provides fines and administrative prosecution. According to international documents, LGBTI citizens have the right to respect for their dignity, equality before the law, non-discrimination, freedom of expression and privacy, and protection from violence and persecution. However, these rights are often violated in the occupied territories due to the hostile attitude of the occupying authorities and illegal armed groups toward the LGBTI community.

The current state of implementation of the rights of LGBTI citizens in the temporarily occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas is deplorable. LGBTI people are subjected to discrimination, harassment, violence, hate speech, etc., by the occupying authorities, illegal armed groups, and organized homophobic groups. LGBTI activists have been forced to leave these areas or to cease their activities. LGBTI people live in an atmosphere of fear, isolation, stigmatization, and criminalization. LGBTI youth, families with children, and transgender people are particularly vulnerable.

It should be noted that even in peacetime and in Ukrainian-controlled areas, LGBTI youth, families with children, and transgender people are particularly vulnerable. They experience higher discrimination, violence, stigmatization, and social exclusion levels. LGBTI youth often suffer from bullying, domestic violence, suicide, and poor mental health. Families with children face challenges recognizing their rights to parenthood, education, social protection, and health care. Transgender people have limited access to legal recognition of their gender identity, hormone therapy, and gender reassignment. They are also frequently victims of transphobic violence and hate crimes.

But how can homophobic rhetoric affect the situation of LGBTI people? Here are just a few global examples:

  • In 2020, human rights group SPoD reported that calls to its hotline about verbal and physical attacks on LGBTI people doubled in 45 days after Turkey’s chief imam warned in a sermon that they spread disease. 
  • In 2021, the NDP reported that LGBTI social media users were in danger due to a rise in homophobic rhetoric. In particular, Turkish President Erdogan called gay people ‘freaks’ and urged Turks to ‘confront those who manifest heresies that our Lord has forbidden.’ There have also been reports of attempts to pressure Netflix to cancel a show with a gay character.

Here are some historical examples of how LGBTI people face harassment and additional discrimination in areas of active combat (military) operations:

  • During World War II, gays and lesbians in the US Army faced extreme discrimination. Many of them found new communities and thrived despite the oppression. Coming Out Under Fire tells their story.
  • In 2021, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, told the Security Council that women in war zones continue to suffer sexual violence and injustice. She also highlighted the complexity of LGBTI people, who face misogyny and attacks on visible women in public life.
  • LGBTI refugees fleeing Ukraine due to Russian aggression faced discrimination in countries with anti-gay laws, such as Poland and Hungary. Many transgender women could not leave the country because their government ID cards still identified them as men – and men are forced to stay and fight under conscription laws.

The situation of LGBTI people in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine is, therefore, complex and requires urgent attention from the international community and human rights defenders. The National LGBTI Consortium calls on all stakeholders to recognize this group’s unique needs and vulnerabilities and provide them with appropriate assistance and protection. The Consortium also calls on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure access to civil registration, social services, health care, and legal aid for LGBTI people who have fled the occupied territories. The Consortium remains committed to working with its partners and allies to improve the lives and well-being of LGBTI people in Ukraine.

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