Human rights festival carries on despite anti-gay threats

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LGBT activists participate in the Equal Rights Festival in Kyiv on May 14.

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the Journalism of Tolerance project by the Kyiv Post and its affiliated non-profit organization, the Media Development Foundation. The project covers challenges faced by sexual, ethnic and other minorities in Ukraine, as well as people with physical disabilities and those living in poverty. This project is made possible by the support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development and Internews. Content is independent of the donors.

The Equality Festival, an event focused on the rights of the minorities, took place in Kyiv on May 14 despite the anti-gay activists’ attempts to disrupt the event.

The event was organized in support of the disrupted Equality Festival in Lviv. The Lviv festival was planned for March 19 but was stopped when some 150 radical anti-gay activists tried to attack the participants. Several participants were beaten but police made no arrests.

The festival was paused because of the bomb threat call when about 70 participants were evacuated from the MediaHub, an event space in central Pechersk district. The festival resumed after the police checked the building and found no bombs.

Some 20 radical anti-gay protesters gathered near the festival place, but no violence has erupted. Police surrounded the place to keep the protesters out.

More than 50 riot police officers and National Guard guarded the site of the festival.

Soon after the festival started a man in a military uniform who called himself a member of the Azov volunteer battalion handed the participants a skin antiseptic, telling them to “treat their wounds,” and a Vaseline lubricate, implying a sexual act between gay men.

The festival participants included Norwegian Ambassador to Ukraine and Belarus Jon Elvedal Fredriksen and Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine Judith Gough, and activists of LGBT organizations, representatives of Ukraine’s feminist movement, groups for ethnic minorities’ rights and the rights of the people with disabilities.

The festival program featured lectures, discussions, film screenings and music performances that were originally supposed to take place at the Lviv festival.

“We speak out not only for the rights of the LGBT people, but for human rights in general,” said Olena Shevchenko, the head of Insight, the LGBT rights group behind the festival.

The Kyiv authorities supported the festival, saying that “there is no place for any kind of discrimination in a developed democratic society,” according to the website of Kyiv City Administration.

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