Homophobic TV Show Sparks LGBT Protest in Ukraine
5 January, 2018

It was supposed to be a humorous sketch comedy show to mark New Year’s Eve. But activists say that part of the performance was offensive to members of the LGBT community.

On January 4, around twenty demonstrators gathered outside the office of one of Ukraine's most popular television channels, 1+1, to protest a scene on the show Kvartal 95 that featured Pinocchio coming out as gay. The activists demanded the television channel publicly apologize and censor similar content in the future.

The scene in question featured Pinocchio facing mockery from other characters, who refused to hold his hand, threatened to chop him up with an ax, and referred to him using euphemisms for Russian-language homophobic slurs.

“As a gay person, it’s unpleasant for me to see this kind of content on one of the country’s central television channels in prime-time,” said Aaron Dzhons, a rights activist and one of the protest’s organizers.

The 1+1 television channel issued an apology for the scene on its Facebook page. “The sketch about Pinocchio, in our opinion, did contain episodes that could lead one to accuse [us] of disrespect to sexual minorities,” 1+1 wrote. The channel also removed the scene from its online video library.

Photo credit: Oleksandra Chernova/HROMADSKE

Kvartal 95 also apologized and stated that it would remove the video from all its official channels.

However, the activists said they were not satisfied. “Their apologies on Facebook are not enough for us. Let them come down to us [and talk],” rights activist Sofia Lapina told Hromadske.

The protesters said that they had agreed to meet with Kvartal 95’s public relations department, but that the show’s employees had stopped answering their phones.

Photo credit: Oleksandra Chernova/HROMADSKE

Although the protesters may not have gotten a meeting with the Kvartal 95, their protest may yield a different result. Because of the Pinocchio sketch, Ukraine’s National Council on Television and Radio has begun monitoring 1+1, Radio Svoboda reported. It could potentially fine the channel for promoting hate on air.

Despite some improvements in public attitudes, LGBT people continue to face discrimination in Ukraine. In the last several years, Kyiv and a few other cities have held LGBT pride marches and related events, albeit often only with significant police protection.  

/By Matthew Kupfer