In Ukraine and around the world, June marks Pride Month for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) inclusion advocates. While annual public demonstrations for equality have been postponed due to the coronavirus, NDI and its civil society partners are continuing to explore innovative ways to engage new audiences and raise awareness of LGBTI issues. Last month, with support from the Swedish and UK governments, NDI helped six Ukrainian civil society organizations launch the online Rizni.Rivni (Different.Equal) public information campaign on LGBTI inclusion, the first national campaign of its kind in Ukraine.music video featuring 15 Ukrainian celebrities, along with LGBTI people and allies, singing about equality, and an interactive website where users can “raise their hands” by lifting their smartphones to show support for the campaign. The responses are recorded and tracked on a map in real time, demonstrating that people from across Ukraine support equality for LGBTI people. Only a month into the campaign, the music video already has almost 1.2 million views on YouTube and the website has more than 8,000 “raised hands.”
“This is evidence that Ukraine is ready for change. We are all equal,” one viewer commented on the music video.
Earlier this month, NDI’s partners launched the second component of the campaign, which consists of audio-visual interactive stories of parents of LGBTI children talking about their journeys toward acceptance. In doing so, they answer common questions about LGBTI people and dispel harmful myths and stereotypes. In support of the development of the campaign, NDI organized a series of focus groups across the country to test campaign messages among target audiences, including with LGBTI people, to receive their feedback on the campaign materials.
While Ukraine’s LGBTI populations have made significant gains in recent years, LGBTI communities in Ukraine remain largely marginalized in civic and political life. On one hand, NDI’s public opinion research has demonstrated that public support for LGBTI Ukrainians is growing and that the inclusion movement is breaking new ground among the general population. Demonstrating the broadening coalition of Ukrainians willing to publicly stand for inclusion, last year more than 10,000 people participated in Pride marches across the country.
Recent trends, however, point to ongoing threats to inclusion. LGBTI Ukrainians are a frequent target of disinformation attacks by both foreign and domestic actors who seek to portray their lives as inherently incompatible with -- and therefore a threat to -- Ukrainian traditions and values on relationships, family composition and gender roles. Discriminatory media and disinformation campaigns have evolved with the appearance of the global COVID-19 pandemic, including an instance where one of the country’s most prominent religious leaders blamed COVID-19 on same-sex marriage. Furthermore, in addition to being subject to information attacks, LGBTI individuals and organizations in Ukraine are frequent targets of physical violence and intimidation by far-right extremists.
In this context, the Rizni.Rivni campaign demonstrates the growing demand for equality among Ukranians and provides a rare portrayal of LGBTI individuals in a positive light, using fact-based information to dispel common myths and stereotypes. By supporting its partners in conducting the campaign, NDI is promoting the development of a more diverse, inclusive, and ultimately more democratic society where all populations have the right to peaceful political participation.
Join the campaign on Facebook and Instagram as NDI works to ensure democracy is inclusive of all in Ukraine.