According to Olena Shevchenko***, working for LGBTQI equality in Ukraine, the level of xenophobia, homophobia and sexism has not changed in Ukraine, on the contrary, problems have been exposed.
Talking about the protests that are happening now in Ukraine, the main question arises – what is the driving factor in” Ukrainian revolution”? In the newspapers and on television, you can often hear that the protests in Ukraine are lead by the political opposition or by the right-wing radicals. This is a traditionalist way of asking questions about who “controls” the situation and gives the orders. It is a quite patriarchal approach that doesn’t give any spaces or voice to minorities. It appeals to the vertical hierarchy in decision-making and representation of views, positions of strength and majority domination.
In fact, the Ukrainian protests represent a large number of different social groups and minorities. The culture of peaceful protests is very much connected with the ideology of non-violence and respect for human rights. There are a number of left-wing organizations, liberals, feminists and LGBT people who participate in protests, but they are not visible, due to the traditional approaches to cover information by mainstream media.
However, it needs to be mentioned, that the initial desire to enter the EU does not imply commitment to ensure protection and fulfillment of human rights in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the level of human rights culture in Ukraine remains low, and nothing has been done to systematically improve it. The things that are happening in Ukraine have not to do with the protection of human rights and minorities. People came out to protest because of corruption, violence by law enforcement, and the lack of social standards of life. Everyone wants to live better, but nobody knows exactly what steps should be taken to do that.
The Ukrainian ultra-right feels that this is the right moment to attack and dictate an agenda, and this agenda has nothing to do with the protection of human rights. The ultra-right show their agenda in the strengthening of the power of an already strong President, the adoption of the National Constitution and, of course, traditionalism. In this discourse, there is no place for equality, feminism and LGBT rights in Ukraine. That’s why now we see a quite difficult situation where we need to choose between a bad and the worst scenario.
Thus, the level of xenophobia, homophobia and sexism has not changed during the Ukrainian revolution. On the contrary, it has exposed the problem. During the protests of “Evromaydan”, many minorities were beaten – left wing activists, feminists and LGBT people. We can confidently assert that the “Evromaydan” is not a safe space to talk about LGBT rights and feminism. Often, the theme of LGBT has been used in order to discredit “Evromaydan”.
However, LGBT activists, feminists and some liberals have decided to concentrate our efforts on educational activism during “Evromaydan”. We do workshops on feminism, equality and human rights, and we have established a “women’s resistance group”.
***Olena Shevchenko is the Executive Director of Insight public organization, that works for equality for LGBTQI people in Ukraine.