Threats against the “Equality Festival Lviv-2016”
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee extend our full support for the organizers of Equality Festival Lviv-2016; scheduled for 19 – 20 March at the Museum of ideas in Lviv. We fear that repeated threats of physical violence and hate speech in social media may prevent the festival from taking place. The City Administration has not made any statement of support despite several inquiries from the organizers.
15 March 2016 the Norwegian Helsinki Committee sent a letter to the Mayor of Lviv, Andrii Sadovyi, expressing our concerns for the safety of the organizers and participants.
- We ask that the City Administration in Lviv take necessary measures to ensure that the Equality Festival can be implemented safely, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland. - It is important that Ukrainian authorities show that there will be no impunity for homophobic and transphobic acts, and that they fully support initiatives that contribute to an open and inclusive society.
The organizers have been met with massive resistance.
14 March 2016 the owner of Museum of ideas informed the organizers that they were no longer able to host the event. The reason given is fear of repercussions from homophobic and transphobic groups, who have presented credible threats.
Hateful statements, such as by Igor Tokovenko, Deputy Head of Svoboda in Dnipropetrovsk, have ignited widespread calls for physical attacks in social media.
Deputies in the City Administration have submitted a proposal to ban the event claiming that the event will endanger the general public and be a provocation against Lviv’s religious population. The final decision is still pending.
This festival is one in a series of cultural events organized by the LGBTIQ organization Insight and other minority- and women’s organizations. The aim is to draw attention to the challenges and diversity for Ukraine’s most vulnerable groups.
Using exhibitions, concerts, films and debates, it brings people together to show how fighting for equal rights should be a common struggle for a Ukraine where all people can have their own cultural expressions - regardless of group belonging. In addition to sexual and gender minorities it engages women, ethnic minorities, people with special needs, migrants, internally displaced persons and homeless people.
It has been a contrasted year for LGBTI persons in Ukraine. LGBTI rights have been an important component in negotiations of a visa-liberalization agreement with EU. At the same time much of the pre-revolution homophobia and transphobia, hate crimes and discrimination remains widespread, and public events are frequently attacked.
When the festival was organized in Kyiv 10-13 December 2015, assailants tried to interrupt the opening with gas grenades, and religious activists attacked with stones. However, due to the course of action taken by the organizers and the police the events proceeded as planned, proving to the audience that with so many groups standing together – hate groups will not be able to set the agenda.
We ask the City Administration in Lviv to:
- Express full support for Equality Festival Lviv-2016
- Make it clear that homophobic and transphobic treats and attacks will not be tolerated
- Take necessary measures to ensure that the festival is implemented in a safe manner