#HeroesofUkraine: advocacy expert answers three questions on LGBT+ and human rights in wartime

May 17, 2022

Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine is a war against a sovereign country but also a war against the values of openness and diversity that the EU is defending and promoting. To mark today’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia #IDAHOBIT2022, the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) gives voice to #HeroesofUkraine from civil society organisations such as the LGBT Human Rights “Nash Svit” Centre.

“In the so-called “Russian World” (Russkij mir), our existence — either as LGBT+ people or as Ukrainians — is simply impossible”, writes the NGO on its homepage. “Let us do our job in our places — in the army, the territorial defence, and the workplace as volunteers.” Expert in Advocacy in “Nash Svit”, Mr Andrii Kravchuk accepted to answer three questions to clarify how equality and inclusion may be stigmatised and challenged in wartime.

What did the war change for LGBT+ rights in Ukraine?

The war put specific issues like LGBT+ in the background. Right now, problems common for all Ukrainians are more critical. There’s an LGBT+ aspect, even in many of these common issues. The lack of legal equality in our rights is the most obvious problem. Despite the total equality in duties as Ukrainian citizens, the LGBT+ community lacks the recognition of same-sex partners as spouses.

Men are obliged to serve in the army, including homosexual and bisexual people. Hence, LGBT+ people may serve in the territorial defence, but their family partners are not considered spouses and have no corresponding rights. The inequality and injustice are apparent. I hope that we, the Ukrainian LGBT+ movement and its allies, will be able to demonstrate it to Ukrainian society. Our politicians will understand the necessity to solve this problem as soon as possible. All defenders of Ukraine deserve equal treatment and equal rights.

What is the role of LGBT+ in defending Ukraine now?

LGBT+ people are an integral part of Ukrainian society. At this time, they contribute to the same level as the rest of our nation. We are serving in the military and territorial defence, and we are working as volunteers and professionals to support the Ukrainian economy and security. We collect money and materials to help our army and refugees.

The role of LGBT+ Ukrainians in this war differs from that of our heterosexual and cisgender fellow citizens. You can check the involvement of the LGBT+ military just by visiting the website and the Facebook group of the association of Ukrainian LGBT military and volunteers. These platforms used to be very active, with over 2,000 users, and they are now silent, without any updates. Those who used to communicate with them are currently serving in the army, fighting our enemies, and have no time and possibilities for internet discussions. 

What is the resilience of your NGO since the war started?

At the beginning of this war, our office, which was also sheltering two same-sex couples of refugees from Luhansk, was twice attacked by some people declaring themselves members of Karpatska Sich, a notorious far-right homophobic grouping. They broke the door of this apartment and robbed us. Thus, we are currently in quite a grave situation but try to do our best to carry on our regular activities, monitoring and documenting violations of LGBT+ people’s rights in Ukraine and helping our defenders from the Russian aggression. A friend of ours is currently serving in the National Guard, and we regularly send money so that he and his fellow service members can get all necessary for their service.

To donate and support the “Nash Svit” Centre: www.gay.org.ua/en/donation/