After the Revolution of Dignity we paid a great price for had won, Ukrainians believed the country made a radical turn from the collective Asian and authoritarian model of society (characteristic of Russia, in particular) to a European one with its liberal values. It seemed that since many people had died for ruining the old system it was impossible to go back to the dark soviet times. It seemed that the new Ukraine people longed for would be built upon the new anthropocentric values such as basic respect for human rights and the rule of law.
We hoped that in post-Maidan times the situation with human rights and minorities would improve, but it didn’t. Unfortunately, at this moment we can claim that we were very wrong. Attitudes towards LGBT community have deteriorated: the search for new national identity led to increasing homophobic moods. This has become even more apparent in the context of an ongoing military conflict in Dobass for military uniform urges some people to think they are somehow superior to others.
These days it’s been almost a year since Ukraine’s Parliament passed a law banning discrimination in the workplace. This document that mentions sexual orientation as an anti-discrimination criteria for the first time in Ukranian history could have become the turning point in the life of Ukranian LGBT community. However, this did not happen. Moreover, the state officials’ humiliating comments that accompanied the law did more harm than good.
“We stand for family values, I hear some fake information which says that there may be same-sex marriages in Ukraine. God forbid, this will ever happen. We will never support this,” said the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Groysman in the process of passing anti-discrimination amendments to the law. “Family values remain inviolable,” President Poroshenko echoed Groysman’s words. The passing of the law became possible only because it was the EU requirement for Ukraine to move forward in its application for visa-free travel to the Schengen Area. Otherwise, the new generation of politicians and state officials who came to power due to the Revolution would have never considered any of sexual minorities’ rights.
Meanwhile, this troublesome law that was passed at the eighth attempt doesn’t work: many people, including my friends, are still fired for being gay. Nothing has changed in practical terms: as soon as an employer learns that his employee is a representative of the LGBT community, the employee is ordered to write a notice of voluntary resignation. Moreover, the employee cannot sue the employer for many reasons. First, it is almost impossible to prove anything; second, going to court in this context could be quite dangerous in Ukraine. The country is full of “guardians of morality”, “traditional values”, and “normal family lifestyle”. The number of such radicals carrying weapons has increased lately.
LGBT rights protection is a litmus test for any society. However, it seems that Ukrainian society is failing it. Violent attacks against gays and lesbians have become more frequent, screenings and equality festivals are brutally interfered with, and cinema theaters get burned down. These aggressive “fighters” against sexual minorities do not realize one simple truth: they fight against Ukraine per se. Since neither the world in general, nor Europe in particular need the country that prefers both to mentally stick to dark soviet times, and let people be harassed and beaten up for their sexual orientation. Such a country is in its right place in the company of Russia and Belarus.
The US President, who had won the elections and who had scared the entire civilized world with his statements, who had been called racist and fanatic by his fellow American citizens, had nevertheless claimed at the Republican National Convention: “ I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.”
This is what the American Dream for Ukrainian democracy looks like: minority rights should be protected by default, regardless of what weird fanatic may come to power and exercise it to its full extent. And this is something that Ukrainian society that has to grow up to, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything Europe could help us with.