What You Need To Know:
✓ Despite differences in Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, the fight against homophobia and the struggle for obtaining equal rights is the same;
✓ Russia’s Anti-Gay Propaganda Law can be seen as catalyst for the problems experienced by LGBTI activists in neighboring countries;
✓ The historic passing of an anti-discrimination law in Ukraine is “very small and very decorative. There is still no law that protects people from violence;”
✓ In many countries of Eastern Europe, economic reforms often overshadow the human rights agenda.
In a first ever television group interview, LGBTI leaders from across Eastern Europe gathered in Kyiv to share their views on the civil rights movements in their respective post-Soviet countries. Activists from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia can agree that despite the economic, political and cultural differences that divide their countries, the fight against homophobia and the struggle for obtaining equal rights is quite the same.
Russia’s Anti-Gay Propaganda Law can be seen as catalyst for the problems experienced by LGBTI activists in neighboring countries. While the world and Europe were fixated on human rights abuses in Russia, other countries were often neglected. “The focus was on Russia solely, and it omitted the situation in the countries around Russia… it was completely disregarded that the homophobia that was very actively used and misused in Russia actually crossed the borders and spread all over the region, ” says Moldovan activist, Artiom Zavadovsky from Genderdoc-M.
According to Georgian Activist, Anna Iluridze from Identoba, “globalization unites our countries with the same values but also pushes nationalism and homophobia as something that can underline your identity in this globalizing world.” Illurdze thinks that European countries should be more attentive to these types of nationalistic tendencies, something “Russia is using really well,” she adds.
In Ukraine, a recent poll shows that more than 60% of Ukrainians still have negative views towards gay people. The historic passing of an anti-discrimination law is “very small and very decorative,” says Volodymyr Naumenko, Gay Alliance Ukraine. “There is still no law that protects people from violence.”
In Georgia, a country which like Ukraine is moving towards trade liberalization, the fight for LGBTI rights can be seen at times as political theatrics: “We have to perform for Europe. We have to be good,” says Iluridze. In many of these countries, economic reforms often overshadow the human rights agenda.
What most separates these Eastern European countries from Central European ones is the long-lasting Russian and Soviet influence: “We’re still present in this media, cultural and linguistic space. And there are a lot of people in Moldova, for example, who do not speak the state-language, which is Romanian, and they watch Russian TV channels, and this is the pure propaganda that is brainwashing their minds. And it's so hard to detach from this flow of information”, says Zavadovsky.
Russian activist, Svetlana Zakharova from the Russian LGBT Network says the situation in her country remains complicated despite some improvements: “On the one hand, we have more people who support us, on the other hand, we have a lot of troubles with legislation... and of course the level of homophobia and the level of violence is increasing constantly”
Hromadske’s Maxim Eristavi spoke to Anna Iluridze, Identoba (Georgia), Artiom Zavadovsky, Genderdoc-M (Moldova), Nvard Margaryan, PINK Armenia, Svetlana Zakharova, Russian LGBT Network, and Volodymyr Naumenko, Gay Alliance Ukraine on March 16th, 2016 in Kyiv.