On Friday 14 August the Equal Rights Trust launched its latest country report In the Crosscurrents: Addressing Discrimination and Inequality in Ukraine. The report is the first time an in-depth analysis on discrimination felt by various groups across Ukraine has ever been undertaken, and it assesses how the recent conflict has exacerbated situations for these groups.
“This report is published at a time of profound change in Ukraine. The country is caught in the crosscurrents created by opposing economic and political forces fighting for its future. We found the main line dividing people today is not ethnic, religious, linguistic or regional, but overwhelmingly political,” said Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Trust.
She continued, “If the government wants to secure the country’s choice in favour of pro-European policy, it should guarantee equal rights for all, regardless of a person’s ethnic, linguistic, religious or sexual identities.”
Some of the report’s most important findings include that:
- While the desire to follow European Union standards has led to radical improvements in legal protection from discrimination, the perception of European intrusion has created tension at many levels.
- Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights have become a fragile off-shoot of a pro-European choice: “We’d rather have a gay pride in the streets of Kyiv than Russian tanks”, a Kyiv resident told the Equal Rights Trust.
- While patterns of inequality relating to whether residents spoke Russian or Ukrainian played a limited role in generating the armed conflict in Donbas, the conflict has politicised pre-existing ethnic, linguistic and religious divisions.
- Levels of discrimination against ethnic, religious and sexual minorities have increased in Crimea and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. We found evidence of discrimination – sanctioned by the de facto authorities – towards Crimean Tatars, Jehovah’s Witnesses and LGBT persons, among other groups.
- The Roma remain the most disadvantaged, stigmatised and discriminated group in Ukraine, experiencing ill-treatment by state agents, high levels of unemployment and poverty and poor quality education and housing.
- The conflict in the east has created an entirely new pattern of discrimination, against internally displaced persons fleeing Crimea and the separatist controlled territories.
- A disturbingly high number of Ukrainian children live in institutions, deprived of their basic human rights and exposed to violence and abuse.
The report, researched in partnership with Ukrainian LGBT rights organisation Nash Mir, combines testimony from victims of discrimination with statistics and contextual information. It concludes by presenting a series of recommendations to ensure equal rights for all in Ukraine.
“We tried to identify patterns of discrimination in Ukraine by showing them in historical, legislative and public perspectives in order to both understand the causes of these problems and to outline possible solutions,” said Coordinator of Nash Mir, Andrii Kravchuk.
He concluded, “Ukraine is now at the beginning of the emergency reforms which will allow us to approach the current standards of the European Union and the Western society in general. We hope that this report’s recommendations will help to modernise the Ukrainian society and state.”