Human rights violations are one of the key issues in the occupied Crimea, which has been widely discussed by human rights activists and international experts. Total contempt and disregard for fundamental international human rights law is the hallmark of the aggressor State, as Russia itself is accustomed to putting the interests of its ruling elite above the respective freedoms of citizens. Excessive proof of this is Russia’s disregard for the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. However, there are categories of persons who find themselves in a zone of special risk in the occupied Crimea, in the context of the threat of violation of their rights and freedoms.
Among other things, we are talking about LGBT communities, which, according to human rights standards, need guarantees of non-discrimination by the State. The whole civilized world is trying to provide such guarantees, including Ukraine. However, the situation is different in the occupied Crimea. Expert of the Association of Reintegration of Crimea Viktor Filatov analyzed in detail the situation, which turned out to be quite threatening.
In December 2008, the UN General Assembly presented a Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which condemned violence, harassment, discrimination, isolation and prejudice against persons on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, the document stressed the need to actively discuss the rights of LGBT communities and create national and international instruments for their protection . Russia has not yet recognized or signed the document, as if this problem does not exist, so why talk about it. On the contrary, Ukraine, together with all civilized nations, supported this document and began to apply its principles.
For example, today, according to the ILGA-Europe rating, Ukraine ranks 36th out of 49 in terms of ensuring the rights of sexual minorities in Europe. That is, in terms of tolerance towards LGBT, Ukraine has overtaken even some EU countries, namely our neighbors Bulgaria, Romania and Poland . Prior to the occupation in 2013, even Yanukovych’s pro-Russian government allowed anti-discrimination rallies in Simferopol on the grounds of sexual orientation. The participants of the action freely expressed their views on the development of homophobic sentiments in the Crimea and stated that they would not allow their rights to be violated . Today, higher education institutions even have relevant disciplines for legal protection and non-discrimination, which are used to write textbooks and compile teaching materials . Within the framework of such disciplines, students are taught international legal standards, mechanisms for protection against discrimination, etc. The situation in the aggressor State is radically different. In particular, according to independent sociological research in Russia over the past seven years, about 300 crimes have been committed, in which citizens of non-traditional sexual orientation were killed, robbed or inflicted bodily harm. However, Russian courts and punitive bodies consistently do not consider this to be hatred and discrimination against LGBT communities .
Moreover, the Russian authorities are not focused on solving this problem, but on establishing responsibility for belonging to sexual minorities. Thus, Article 6.21 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of Russia establishes responsibility for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”. The amount of fines under this article reaches one million rubles, and the norm of the article is quite abstract. In fact, it is possible to be prosecuted simply for information about the rights of LGBT communities . At the same time, Putin constantly emphasizes, despite all the facts, that there is no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in Russia. By the way, such statements were made at a time when it was planned to amend the Constitution of the Russian Federation .
Therefore, after the beginning of the occupation of Crimea on the peninsula, the situation for LGBT communities has not changed for the better. This is mainly due to the fact that homophobia has always found support in the aggressor state, even among the authorities, which covered up crimes against members of the LGBT community. According to Crimean insiders, difficult times have begun for sexual minorities since 2014, as perpetrators have moved from threats to action. Both men and women are victims of violence. These are mainly beatings and psychological violence, to which the local “police” do not respond . Impunity breeds violence that has no nationality or religion. Under such conditions, the self-proclaimed “Head” of the Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, stated back in 2015 that he personally would not allow the LGBT community in Crimea to hold any events. Moreover, local Russian-controlled “self-defense forces” have announced a hunt for sexual minorities in the Crimea. That is, in fact, it is a matter of complete arbitrariness and terror, which makes the lives of LGBT unbearable.
The spread of discrimination and violence was influenced by significant migration to the peninsula of all kinds of anti-social elements from Russia and from the occupied territories of East of Ukraine. Such characters constantly humiliate members of sexual minorities, and even publicly insult; Russia’s “Airborne Forces Day” become traditional for LGBT “hunting” for these marginals and actually became “the day of the fight against gays” as possibly the only non-armed opponents with whom the Russian invaders are not afraid to meet face to face .
In recent years, Crimean sexual minorities have very often fallen victim to the aggression of former Russian militants who fought in eastern Ukraine and moved to the occupied peninsula. In particular, most of these cases occurred in the Simeiz settlement, which before the occupation was world-famous among LGBT communities as a tolerant resort for them, and it now set aside by Putin for the estates of his own servants, including Dmitry Peskov . It is quite significant that Russian militants feel free to “hunt for gays” in the occupied territories, although in Russia itself they do not allow such actions, because they understand that they can get behind bars, even for the “common crime” without mentions about discrimination in sentence.
Since the beginning of the occupation, Russian protégés in Crimea have begun to actively persecute LGBT on the peninsula. For example, in May 2014, one of the district courts of the city of Moscow “recognized as legal” the “ban” by the Russian invaders of holding a gay parade in Simferopol. A month earlier, the “government”, controlled by the aggressor State, “refused” to hold a rally in support of the rights of sexual minorities . The participants intended to defend their interests in the European Court of Human Rights, but have not yet received results. Also in 2014, a foreign tourist of non-traditional sexual orientation was killed in occupied Yevpatoria, and his minibus was simply burned by criminals near a WWII monument. Moreover, this foreigner came to rest in the Crimea before the occupation, and no one touched him . It is noteworthy that defending his “high spiritual interests”, the aggressor does not even want to notice what is really happening on the occupied peninsula. What is worth is the fact of beating and rape of a teenager from the Ak-Mechet district of Simferopol in 2014 by a Russian serviceman from the invaders’ contingent, just for victim’s speaking Crimean Tatar language .
However, without noticing the obvious, the Kremlin and its puppets in the occupied Crimea continue to discriminate against LGBT. It even comes down to funny things. In particular, in 2016, an activist who “applied for a gay parade in Sevastopol” was accused of being an agent of the US State Department, which finances his activities, and was called a provocateur . That is, even here the Russian invaders see the trace of the United States and want to turn the Crimean residents into a homophobic society, that does not pay attention to the laws and realities of the civilized world, and is ready to kill just for belonging to another sexual orientation.
The Kremlin’s statements by its pocket political scientists show the absurdity of their policy. Thus, in 2018, Stanislav Belkovsky stated that in the occupied Crimea it is necessary to “allow same-sex marriages”, which will allegedly help to establish relations with Europe and the United States and to lift some sanctions from Russia. According to this grief-political scientist, “recognition of LGBT” will help “justify the occupation of Crimea” to the world community . I wonder if the Russian political scientist seriously believes that the recognition of the rights of sexual minorities will change the world’s position on Russia’s war crimes in the Donbas and the attempted annexation of the Crimea. Most likely, we will have to answer for these crimes, including discrimination against LGBT on the occupied Ukrainian peninsula. The fact is that the rights of persons, who are different from others, cannot be used to speculate and reduce financial and economic sanctions. This is a completely different context, which even in wartime must be guaranteed to a person in terms of his protection against discrimination.
These facts were made possible by the Kremlin’s total propaganda, which focuses on disrespect, discrimination and the eradication of LGBT. In particular, analysts found that the basis of hatred and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is the opposition of the occupiers to the propaganda of traditional values and alleged “human pseudo-rights” in Europe. For example, according to eyewitnesses, boards with the words “Europe is same-sex marriage” were placed all over the peninsula at the beginning of the occupation. Propaganda of violence against LGBT also comes from the occupying “authorities”, including so called “Simferopol City Council deputy” Ilyichev, and former Kremlin-controlled “governor” of Sevastopol Menyailo who said, that while he is in office, “no gay parade will be held” . Also, the invaders’ “powers” is not limited to propaganda and uses their “administrative resources” to discriminate against LGBT in the Crimea.
Crimean security forces are actively involved in the persecution of LGBT. Thus, in 2018, the data of the anti-discrimination center “Memorial” on the illegal detention, rape and torture of the occupiers of a local representative of sexual minorities were published. The crime lasted for almost four hours, and so far the victim has not proved the guilt of his perpetrators. At the same time, the “police” demanded that the victim “rewrite” his own house on the Crimean coast. According to the victim, he was forced to sign papers and leave Crimea. He also stated that these “policemen” deliberately tracked LGBT in the Crimea in order to confiscate their property , apparently aware of their own impunity.
In the absence of access to the occupied peninsula by international human rights organizations, LGBT were left alone with their problems and threats. Currently, NGOs representing LGBT’s rights on the peninsula until 2014 have ceased operations, and businesses, run by non-traditional sexual orientation in Crimea until 2014, have had to be shut down or relocated from the occupied peninsula.
Crimean transgender persons, whose appearance differs from the photo in the “documents”, were in a special risk group. Such people are constantly risking their lives, because the Russia-controlled “police” constantly checks their “documents” and demands to prove their identity. For this reason, most transgender persons are constantly on the occupied peninsula, as leaving it has become difficult for them, as well as obtaining “documents” from the occupiers, which is almost impossible if the appearance and photo do not match . In essence, such people remain outside society and experience social alienation and hatred. It is not common to hear such stories in the twenty-first century, but they are the realities of the modern occupied Crimea.
At the same time, there is another problem faced by LGBT persons, namely the violation of the rights of children whose parents are LGBT, deprived of proper social and pedagogical support. Many families in the occupied Crimea, where LGBT parents are involved, testify to the abuse and isolation of their children in the educational environment. Also in the context of total invaders’ propaganda, such families care about the consciousness of their children, in whom they can raise hatred for their parents. In addition, propaganda has a negative effect on Crimean adolescents, as it painfully and consistently focuses on the issue of LGBT as allegedly “inferior”, “sick” persons .
Under the conditions of the Russian invaders, it is very difficult to obtain real LGBT statistics in Crimea, but even without quantitative indicators, it is obvious that the rights of these categories of persons are limited as much as possible. Crimea’s LGBT are limited not only to the level of Russian law that is illegally applied to them, which essentially eliminates the rights of people of non-traditional sexual orientation, but also to the level of occupying “powers” trying to please the Kremlin and relaying their ideas of “spiritual unity”. The situation is complicated by the isolation of the occupied peninsula, which is only in the hands of the Kremlin, because in fact modern Crimea can be turned into a “peninsula of horror”. However, whenever necessary, Russia uses LGBT issues for its own political interests, speculating on the subject. The Russian invaders seek to sow hatred and aggression against LGBT in Crimea, whose guilt lies in the very fact of their existence. Moreover, none of the Kremlin experts will be able to clearly explain what exactly the aggressor State is threatened by members of sexual minorities, who just want to live in peace and feel safe.
It is noteworthy that in Crimea, the aggressor consistently and openly discriminates against the same groups that were exterminated in concentration camps by Nazi Germany – ethnic minorities, Jehovah’s Witnesses and LGBT. Readers may notice that European countries often pay allegedly “too much” attention to the LGBT rights now shared by the ARC, but in reality the logic of Western democracies is very simple and important. After all, the attitude of the authorities and society towards LGBT is a marker, a test that very reliably determines the risk of not just undemocratic challenges in the country, but of possible totalitarianism perspectives. Which will then begin to destroy everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Unfortunately, these markers of totalitarianism are clearly visible in the Russian-occupied Crimea.
Our Association informed on situation with health, sexual orientation and gender identity in the Crimea in 2021 and in 2022 the UN Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for his reports, including issues of the violation by the Russian invaders the LGBT rights in the Crimea. Assosiation got thanks from the UN Rxpert for our Crimea-related submissions and will continue such activities in future.
2. https://suspilne.media/33757-ukraina-za-rivnem-zahistu-prav-lgbt-opinila sa-miz-italieu-i-bolgarieu/