March 18, 2016

Equality Festival in Ukraine Under Threat

Insight, a queer feminist organisation in Ukraine and a grantee partner of Mama Cash, is organising an Equality Festival in Lviv. On March 16, 2015, the group issued an official statement on the attempts to disrupt the Equality Festival. The event is to be held March 19-20 and has been organised in collaboration with other women’s and minority groups.

The Equality Festival: Lviv 2016 is part of  the Equality Festival series, including exhibitions, concerts, films, and debates that aims to promote ideas of tolerance, equality, and anti-discrimination towards social groups vulnerable to intolerance and violence. The venue for the March event, the Museum of Ideas, announced on March 14, 2015 that it could no longer host the event due to fear of repercussions from homophobic and transphobic opponents who threatened violence and property damage.

This is not the first obstacle or threat the organisers of Equality Festival have faced. The opening of the festival in Kiev from December 10-13, 2015 was interrupted with gas grenades and religious activists attacked festival goers with stones, although organiser and police action ensured the event went ahead as planned.

Since then, Igor Tokovenko, deputy head of the right-wing political party Svobuda, has published hate speech regarding Equality Festival: Lviv 2016 on social media, igniting calls for physical attacks. Deputies in the City Administration submitted a proposal to ban the event, claiming it will endanger the general public and be a provocation against Lviv’s religious population. The mayor of Lviv, Andrij Sadovyi, has not responded to Insight’s February 25 letter requesting official support for the festival from him and the City Administration and inviting him to attend.

In the past five days there has been an incredible mobilisation of ultra-rights and conservative political parties, which have been very vocal about their opposition to the festival. They are backed by priests and churches.

Mama Cash stands with our partner Insight in its efforts to promote human rights and urges the Lviv City Administration to uphold the right to peaceful assembly and ensure that Equality Festival: Lviv 2016 can proceed free from violence.

The Norweigan Helsinki Committee has also stated its support for Insight in regards to this issue.

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