Ukraine

Court cancels Ukraine’s first-ever gay pride event

Efrem Lukatsky, AP
Activists of a gay flash mob throw balloons into the air marking International Day Against Homophobia in Kiev, Ukraine, last week. MARIA DANILOVA [ap]

KIEV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian court on Thursday banned what would have been Ukraine’s first-ever gay pride demonstration, upholding a suit by city authorities, who argued the rally would disturb annual Kiev Day celebrations and could spark violence.

The ruling dashed the hopes of Ukraine’s gay and lesbian community, who planned to use the event to fight discrimination and derogatory stereotypes of gays.

Efrem Lukatsky, AP
Activists of a gay flash mob throw balloons into the air marking International Day Against Homophobia in Kiev, Ukraine, last week.

Last year, organizers canceled the event at the last minute when skinheads gathered at its planned location, intent on beating up the participants. Still, two leading activists were brutally beaten by radicals in subsequent weeks.

While the recognition of gay rights advances in much of the West, antipathy toward homosexuals remains strong in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Homosexuality was a criminal offense in the USSR and societal resistance to it remains strong two decades later.

The highly influential Orthodox Church strongly opposes gay rights. A small gay pride rally in the capital of Georgia last week was attacked by a large mob that included Orthodox priests; attempted rallies in Moscow in recent years attract crowds of bellicose Orthodox conservatives.

The gay community is now pondering whether to hold the even at a different location, far away from Kiev Day celebrations, or merely hold a press briefly on the banning of the rally.

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Amnesty International said in a recent report that Ukraine’s gay community suffers attacks and abuses and widespread discrimination. Despite condemnation from the West, the Ukrainian parliament is debating several anti-gay bills, including one which would make any public positive depiction of homosexuality punishable by up to five years in prison.

Ukraine scored 12 out of 100 points on the so-called Europe rainbow map, a study of gay rights and freedoms conducted by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Associati on. By comparison, Britain had 77 points.

“There is not enough information about who gays and lesbians really are,” said Volodymyr Naumenko, a leading gay rights activist here. “They are people, first of all, they are people who want happiness for themselves.”

Gay community leaders say that less than 1 percent of Ukraine’s gays and lesbians are open about their sexual orientation, while the rest are forced to hide from friends and co-workers and deceive their loved ones.

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