A court in Kiev, Ukraine has cancelled a gay pride march scheduled for Saturday, citing concerns from city authorities that the demonstration could incite violence. Reuters reports:
A Kiev court on Thursday banned what would have been Ukraine's first gay pride event after city authorities raised security concerns.
There is little public acceptance of homosexuality in predominantly Orthodox Ukraine, as in other former Soviet republics; last week, large crowds of protesters broke up gay rights rallies in Georgia and Russia.
A spokeswoman for the organizers of Saturday's Equality March, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, said activists would find another way to express "our protest, our view on what is going on with human rights in Ukraine".
Last year, a similar demonstration cancelled at the last minute when skinheads massed at the march's predetermined location, intent on menacing participants. Svyatoslav Sheremet, who leads the Gay Forum of Ukraine, was attacked by anti-gay protesters following the cancellation, and the beating was captured on film by a Reuters photographer (see above).
A majority of Ukraine's population belongs to the Orthodox Church, a staunch opponent of LGBT equality. According to The Guardian, a small pride rally held last week in Georgia was broken up by a mob that included Orthodox priests.
This weekend, Amnesty International published a report condemning what it described as "endemic discrimination" by the Ukrainian government and the public at large toward LGBT individuals:
Amnesty International has documented several violent attacks against LGBTI people, some carried out by public officials, and some by members of the public. In some cases such attacks have resulted in death. Yet the authorities fail to investigate these crimes promptly, thoroughly, effectively and impartially, and, moreover, fuel the pervasive negative stereotypes about LGBTI people in Ukrainian society which underpin the attacks.
In a statement protesting the cancellation, Human Rights Watch LGBT rights advocacy director Boris Dittrich said, "Banning the Kiev Equality March would send all the wrong signals to those seeking to prevent or obstruct it. Authorities should show political leadership and make it clear they won’t let hateful rhetoric, threats of violence, and bullying tactics dictate their policies." HRW will have two observers on the ground in Kiev this Saturday to monitor the situation.