The main building of the Kyiv City State Administration was illuminated with LGBTQ pride colors on the evening of Dec. 10, Human Rights Day.
Initiated by two non-profit organizations, Amnesty International and KyivPride, the effort aimed to draw public attention to the pressing issue of homophobic and transphobic crimes in Ukraine.
The city administration’s move is unprecedented for Ukraine. Most Ukrainian officials are reluctant to publicly support LGBTQ rights, as it might cost them voters in a largely conservative society.
“Today's action draws attention to the equal rights of every person without exception. I am convinced that the recognition of equality by each of us leads people to freedom, mutual respect and peace,” Mykola Povoroznyk, first deputy head of the Kyiv administration, said in a statement on Dec. 10.
Attacks on LGBTQ people and community-related events such as the annual Pride march are widespread in Ukraine. Far-right groups are often behind them.
In 2020, human rights nonprofit Nash Svit recorded 177 cases of homophobia, transphobia, discrimination or other violations of LGBTQ people's rights.
One recent incident occurred in early August, when a man was assaulted outside Lift, a gay nightclub in Kyiv, resulting in his hospitalization with a brain hemorrhage and being placed into a medically induced coma.
Attacks on LGBTQ people are often classified by law enforcement as simple hooliganism. Human rights activists have spent years calling for the classification of these offenses as hate crimes and their proper investigation.
In November, Ukraine handed out its first ever jail sentence for a homophobic hate crime, according to the LGBTQ rights group Insight.
The head of Amnesty International Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, pointed out that neither the existing legal framework nor law enforcement agencies can currently provide adequate protection to LGBTQ people in Ukraine.
“By supporting our common fight for a safe city for all, Kyiv can become an example for other cities in Ukraine. We call for systemic change at the city level to increase security for all without exception,” Pokalchuk said in the statement.
Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on Dec. 10, the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.