About 7,000 people gathered in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday for the annual March for Equality to support the rights of the country’s LGBT community.
Dressed in colorful costumes and rainbow flags, crowds marched through Kiev’s central streets, some carrying banners “Fight for the Right!” The participants announced eight demands for the Ukrainian authorities, including the legalization of civil participation for LGBT people and the creation of laws against LGBT hate crimes.
“We are tired of waiting for change and the systematic intimidation, pressure, disruption of peaceful events, attacks on activists and the LGBT community,” the marchers said in a statement. “We demand change here and now, because we want to live freely in our country.”
The march was guarded by police, who sought to stop clashes with far-right groups attempting to disrupt the event every year. Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova urged radical groups to refrain from violence.
“We are different, but we are the same,” said Denisova. “The Constitution of Ukraine declares all people equal in their rights by birth, regardless of any characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Several hundred activists protesting the march held their rally in a park in Kiev. No clash has been reported.
Ukraine repealed criminal liability for homosexuality in 1991. In 2015, Ukraine’s labor laws were amended to ban discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace.
However, conservative groups in the largely conservative Christian country oppose LGBT rights and members of far-right organizations regularly attack groups and events associated with the LGBT community. LGBT rights groups say Ukrainian police often ignore the homophobic or transphobic motives of the attacks, classifying them as felonies.