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Crimea

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Human rights groups and LGBTQI+ activists reported that most LGBTQI+ individuals fled Crimea after Russia’s occupation began. Those who remained lived in fear of abuse due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The UN Human Rights Council’s independent expert received reports of increased violence and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community in Crimea as well as the use of homophobic propaganda employed by the occupation authorities. LGBTQI+ persons reportedly were frequently subjected to beatings in public spaces and entrapped by organized groups through social networks. The council’s report noted, “This environment created an atmosphere of fear and terror for members of the community, with related adverse impacts on their mental health and well-being.”

According to the HRMMU, NGOs working on access to health care among vulnerable groups found it impossible to advocate for better access to health care for LGBTQI+ persons due to fear of retaliation by occupation authorities.

Occupation authorities prohibited any LGBTQI+ group from holding public events in Crimea. LGBTQI+ individuals faced increasing restrictions on their exercise of free expression and peaceful assembly, because occupation authorities enforced a Russian law that criminalizes the so-called propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors (see section 6 of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia).

Russia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

During the year there were reports state actors committed violence against LGBTQI+ individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in Chechnya (see section 1.b.).

There were reports that government agents attacked, harassed, and threatened LGBTQI+ activists.  For example, Meduza reported that Dagestani police forcibly returned Khalimat Taramova, a 22-year-old woman and victim of domestic violence, to Chechnya after she escaped to a women’s shelter in Makhachkala following threats by her family and local police due to her sexual orientation.  In a statement on June 12, Chechen minister Akhmed Dudayev praised law enforcement for having “foiled an attempted kidnapping” by “instigators.”  On the same day, the Russian LGBT Network said it would file a complaint with the ECHR about Taramova’s abduction and expressed concern that her sexual orientation placed her at risk of further abuse in Chechnya.

LGBTQI+ persons were targets of societal violence, and police often failed to respond adequately to such incidents.  For example, in March an LGBTQI+ activist from Murmansk, Valentina Likhoshva, reported to police that she had received threats after receiving an international award recognizing her contributions to social justice and human rights in the Barents region.  Media outlets reported that police subsequently refused to investigate her claims, commenting that because the threats came by email, their validity could not be determined.

During the year authorities acted on a limited basis to investigate and punish those complicit in societal violence and abuses by the state.  For example, on January 12, a court in Yekaterinburg sentenced Pavel Zuyev to five years in prison on robbery charges after he beat and robbed two gay men in September 2020.  The court determined that Zuyev assaulted the men due to their sexual orientation and ordered him to compensate them financially for emotional damages.

In 2020 the Russian LGBT Network released a report that showed 12 percent of LGBTQI+ respondents in a survey had experienced physical violence, 4 percent had experienced sexual violence, and 56 percent had experienced psychological abuse during their lifetime.  The report noted that LGBTQI+ persons faced discrimination in their place of study or work, when receiving medical services, and when searching for housing.  The report also noted that transgender persons were uniquely vulnerable to discrimination and violence.  The Russian LGBT Network claimed that law enforcement authorities did not always protect the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals and were sometimes the source of violence themselves.  As a result, LGBTQI+ individuals had extremely low levels of trust in courts and police.

A homophobic campaign continued in state-controlled media in which officials, journalists, and others derided LGBTQI+ persons as “perverts,” “sodomites,” and “abnormal,” and conflated homosexuality with pedophilia.

There were reports police conducted involuntary physical exams of transgender or intersex persons.  In April a St. Petersburg court ordered a transgender man, Innokentiy Alimov, to undergo a gynecological examination to determine his gender, on the basis of which he was transferred to a women’s detention center.  Alimov was sentenced to four and one-half years in prison in a drug trafficking case and spent at least two months in a “punishment cell,” which prison authorities argued was a safer place than among the general population.

The Association of Russian-speaking Intersex reported that medical specialists often pressured intersex persons (or their parents if they were underage) into having so-called normalization surgery without providing accurate information about the procedure or what being intersex meant.

The law criminalizes the distribution of “propaganda” of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors and effectively limits the rights of free expression and assembly for citizens who wish to advocate publicly for LGBTQI+ rights or express the opinion that homosexuality is normal.  Examples of what the government considered LGBTQI+ propaganda included materials that “directly or indirectly approve of persons who are in nontraditional sexual relationships” (see section 2.a.).  Authorities charged feminist and LGBTQI+ rights defender Yuliya Tsvetkova with the criminal offense of disseminating pornography online after she shared images depicting female bodies on her social media accounts.  Tsvetkova’s trial began on April 12 and continued as of December.

The law does not prohibit discrimination by state or nonstate actors against LGBTQI+ persons with respect to essential goods and services such as housing, employment, or access to government services such as health care.

LGBTQI+ persons reported significant societal stigma and discrimination, which some attributed to official promotion of intolerance and homophobia.  In July a large health-food retail chain, VkusVill, ran and later apologized for an ad featuring a gay couple shopping in the store, which was part of a campaign featuring shoppers who visit the chain.  Media outlets reported that the initial reaction to the ad was generally positive.  As responses became increasingly critical, however, the chain was accused of promoting homosexuality.  Its leadership removed the ad and apologized for “hurting the feelings of a large number of buyers, employees, partners and suppliers.”

High levels of employment discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons reportedly persisted.  Activists asserted that the majority of LGBTQI+ persons hid their sexual orientation or gender identity due to fear of losing their jobs or homes, as well as the risk of violence.  LGBTQI+ students also reported discrimination at schools and universities.

Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or deny LGBTQI+ persons health services due to intolerance and prejudice.  The Russian LGBT Network’s report indicated that, upon disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBTQI+ individuals often encountered strong negative reactions and the presumption they were mentally ill.  According to a poll conducted in July by the government-controlled Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 23 percent of respondents considered members of the LGBTQI+ community to be “sick people who need help,” an opinion mainly held by men and persons older than age 60.

Transgender persons faced difficulty updating their names and gender markers on government documents to reflect their gender identity because the government had not established standard procedures, and many civil registry offices denied their requests.  When documents failed to reflect their gender identity, transgender persons often faced harassment by law enforcement officers and discrimination in accessing health care, education, housing, transportation, and employment.

There were reports LGBTQI+ persons also faced discrimination in parental rights.  The Russian LGBT Network reported LGBTQI+ parents often feared that the country’s prohibition on the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation” to minors would be used to remove custody of their children.  On February 15, the ECHR inquired with Russian authorities on behalf of a transgender man who lost guardianship of his two foster children when authorities in Yekaterinburg learned that he had begun to change his gender.  The man was granted asylum in Spain.

Ukraine

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There was societal violence against LGBTQI+ persons often perpetrated by members of violent radical groups, and authorities often did not adequately investigate these cases or hold perpetrators to account. The LGBTQI+ rights organization Nash Mir noted that criminal proceedings for attacks against members of the LGBTQI+ community were rarely classified under criminal provisions pertaining to hate crimes, which carry heavier penalties. For example, according to a victim’s account published by Nash Mir, on July 2, a police officer beat a gay man in the man’s home in Kyiv while shouting antihomosexual insults at him. The officer had reportedly arrived at the house after being called by the victim’s landlord, who had been engaged in a verbal argument with the victim. The victim filed a complaint with the Dniprovskyy District Police Department in Kyiv, and police reportedly opened an investigation into the attack on July 14 but closed it on August 17 without bringing any charges. According to Nash Mir, police reopened the case upon an appeal from the victim’s lawyer. As of late October, the investigation remained open.

Law enforcement at times condoned or perpetrated violence against members of the LGBTQI+ community. For example, according to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, police officers in Toretsk violently detained a man shortly after he entered his apartment building on May 3. According to the victim, police struck him on the head without any warning and then held him on the floor with his hands fastened behind his back and the knee of an officer pressed to his head, causing him to lose consciousness at one point. When the man stated that he was a representative of the LGBTQI+ community, the officers reportedly mocked him and continued the abuse. Officers reportedly filed an administrative charge against the victim for resisting arrest, claiming they had stopped him to search his backpack for drugs. According to his lawyers, the victim was hospitalized for one month because of his injuries and was later forced to move away from Toretsk due to threats from police. In June the victim’s lawyers appealed to the SBI to investigate the victim’s allegations.

Public figures sometimes made comments condoning violence against LGBTQI+ individuals. On March 18, a former member of the Kyiv City Council, Ruslan Andriyko, posted the comment, “Burn in the oven!” in the comments section of a news article regarding violence against LGBTQI+ teenagers.

According to Nash Mir, violent radical groups consistently tried to disrupt LGBTQI+ events with violence or threats of violence (see examples in section 2.b.).

The labor code prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no law, however, against discrimination in other areas, and discrimination was reportedly widespread in employment, housing, education, and other sectors.

Transgender persons reported difficulties obtaining official documents reflecting their gender identity, which resulted in discrimination in health care, education, and other areas.

A UN report noted that Russia-led forces’ regular use of identity checks in the “DPR” and “LPR” and at the line of contact put transgender persons at constant risk of arbitrary arrest, detention, and connected abuses, due to the lack of identity documents matching their gender identity.

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