'LGBT+ people affected by the war in Ukraine need protection,' says human rights official

LGBT+ people in Ukraine at greater risk: 'in times of war and displacement LGBT+ people are even more vulnerable than in peacetime'

LGBTQI flag hanging on a building in Greenwich Village, New York City, USA - stock photo
(Image credit: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

LGBT+ people of Ukraine, alongside their heterosexual compatriots, are facing countless challenges as the Russian invasion wages on. However, as the conflict intensifies, it's clear that LGBT+ Ukrainians are suffering intersectional dimensions that are cause for enormous concern.

When most people consider how to help the people of Ukraine, it's likely they think of the nation as a whole - as opposed to the many communities in the country itself. Sadly, marginalized communities, including the LGBT+ community, are facing far greater struggles, according to a report from the UN and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović.

In the statement - released on this year’s International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia - the Commissioner called on all member states to pay attention to the situation of LGBT+ people who are either still in Ukraine, or are fleeing the war. "So that their vulnerability and needs are fully taken into account in the human rights and humanitarian response."

A notice offering safe shelter for LGBT+ people from Ukraine is seen at the main railway station in Krakow, Poland on March 7, 2022. Russian invasion on Ukraine can cause a mass exodus of refugees to Poland.

(Image credit: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Dunja also flagged, among many issues faced by the LGBT+ community, that accessing urgently needed medications, required by some LGBT+ people in Ukraine, including hormones for trans people, medication for intersex people, and antiretroviral medication - is a matter of urgency.

She particularly highlighted the plight of transgender people of Ukraine, experiencing difficulties in leaving the country. She references the several transgender women who are blocked in Ukraine because they have not completed the legal gender recognition process.

"Consequently the gender markers in their identity documents remain male at a time when all men between 18 and 60 are required by martial law to stay in Ukraine," says Dunja, explaining the horrific implication of this. For this precise reason, the report calls on authorities both in Ukraine and its bordering countries to pay attention to, "the specific vulnerability of transgender people who need to leave the country so that they can do so safely."

A report from the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and other human rights experts asserts that among 84M people who are currently forcibly displaced worldwide, LGBT+ persons are particularly vulnerable and marginalized. The report states that, "The structural vulnerabilities that LGBT+ persons face are intensified by their situation as migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, or internally displaced persons."

It's a devastating reality that for many LGBT+ people around the world, even peacetime is a constant battleground, day-to-day life is lived on high alert, in secrecy, in fear - just for being who they are.

As it stands, according to the Human Dignity Trust (opens in new tab), globally, 71 jurisdictions criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity. If that figure isn't horrifying enough, there are 11 jurisdictions in which the death penalty is imposed or at least a possibility - for private, consensual same-sex sexual activity. 

Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.