The Spring of Violence and Hate: Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine
This month, ILGA-Europe (The International Lesbian and Gay Association) released its updated Rainbow Map “ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map” [PDF version], which grades the countries of the European continent according to their treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual persons (LGBT). Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine, received the lowest scores in this comprehensive assessment of the LGBT rights and freedoms in Europe. Or, perhaps, these nations scored the highest in their disrespect and utter disregard for their LGBT citizens' safety and peace.
Here are some of the recent events that took place in those countries which add to their already dismal record of respect for the rights of the LGBT persons:
Earlier this spring, several municipalities in Moldova followed a heinous example set by a number of regional legislatures in the Russian Federation by adopting the laws against the so-called “gay propaganda”. This legislation effectively bans any public discussion of LGBT issues and was originally proposed by the Communist Party, which remains a powerful force in Moldovan politics after more than 20 years of the country's independence from the Soviet rule. This distressing development proves once again that Moldova, although aspiring to join the European Union, is far from abandoning its Soviet legacy of violent state-sponsored homophobia. In the past, the Moldovan gay and lesbian activists have been continuously harassed and threatened by both the ultra-right thugs and the police officers, whenever they tried to hold public meetings or conferences, or open an advocacy center or a gay-friendly club.
May 1 — the May Day — also known as the International Workers' Day — remains an official holiday in the Russian Federation. This year's May Day celebrations in Russia were marked by massive protests against what many Russian citizens feel is Vladimir Putin's continuing usurpation of power. In Saint-Petersburg, Russia's second largest city, the protesters were joined by a group of LGBT activists who campaigned against the city's newly adopted law prohibiting the so-called “gay propaganda” (I wrote about it earlier here: “No love from Russia — if youre gay”). These brave individuals marched with the rainbow flags and were promptly detained by the police for violating the very law they were protesting against. The police arrested 17 individuals who were later charged with administrative violations and their cases are currently pending. This incident is a perfect portrayal of what this homophobic law truly is — a reactionary draconian measure aimed at further suppression of freedoms of expression and association in the Russian Federation.
On May 17, 2012, a large group of LGBT activists and their supporters were actually able to obtain the Saint-Petersburg city authorities' permission to celebrate publicly the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). It is reported that some 300 people attended that festive event. They were immediately confronted, however, by a group of some 150 militant neo-Nazi and Orthodox extremists, who turned the event into a massive fight. It is notable that the numerous police officers present at the event did little to stop the attackers. They did, in the end, provide busses to evacuate the LGBT activists as the situation was intrepidly getting out of control. Two of the gay activists suffered from physical violence that day, but people who had no knowledge of IDAHO celebrations were injured as well, when the skinheads attacked a passing bus with seasonal workers thinking that they were in fact attacking the fleeing gay activists. The brutality of the attack is quite horrific (a short video can be viewed below); what is more troubling, however, is the police inaction against the perpetrators. By not stopping the attackers, the Saint Petersburg police effectively sided with them. After all, we all know that the Russian law enforcement is perfectly able to disperse just about any crowd; lately, however, they seem to apply their abilities only to peaceful protesters who dare to oppose the current regime.
“Gay Activists Attacked in St. Petersburg on International Day of Fighting Homophobia”
As the Ukrainian parliament (the Rada) continues its consideration of a nation-wide ban on “homosexual propaganda” (these pitiful legislations seem to be spreading like plague in that part of the world), the Ukrainian gay activists were viciously attacked as they tried to hold the Ukraine's first ever gay pride parade in the capital city of Kiev. Just as in Saint Petersburg, the planned LGBT event was disrupted by a massive show of neo-Nazis, Christian fundamentalists, and a counter march for the “Preservation of Family Values” organized by the infamous “Love Against Homosexuality” movement, which has established a notoriously solid presence in the Ukrainian politics these days. At least two people required hospitalization after a series of attacks took place in Kiev. Svyatoslav Sheremet, a prominent Ukrainian gay activist, suffered a particularly vicious beating by the skinheads (the gruesome images of the attack on Svyatoslav can be viewed here: “Horrific moment thugs attack head of gay rights group as Ukraine is forced to cancel parade hijacked by neo-Nazi zealots” [link]). The Ukrainian police proved to be just as willfully impotent as their Russian counterparts in the incident described above. This shocking episode is a clear statement that being openly gay in Ukraine is not just problematic, it is indeed life threatening.
The events described above portray quite a sordid picture for the LGBT people in Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. If you identify yourself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender/transsexual and have a fear of returning to your homeland, you may be eligible for asylum in the United States. If you find yourself in such situation, you should immediately seek assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.
Resources and materials:
International Lesbian and Gay Association, ilga.org, dailymail.co.uk, youtube.com, gay.ru, NY Times.
By Ivan Savvine, Senior Paralegal @ The Law Offices of Grinberg & Segal, PLLC.