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Ukraine's Freedom Party Crusades Against Gay Pride Parade

An attempt to hold Ukraine's first gay pride parade is meeting resistance from a member of the country's far-right All-Ukranian Union “Freedom” party who is organizing anti-equality events to coincide with the march on May 25, 2013.

A previous attempt to organize a gay pride parade failed in May 2012, when the event was cancelled shortly before it was to begin and one of its organizers, Svyatoslav Sheremet [ru], was beaten by a group of masked men. Judging from the online reactions that began to appear as soon as the upcoming Equality March was announced [uk] in the Ukrainian media at the end of April, things may not go very smoothly this year as well.

On Facebook, the pro-Equality March event [uk, ru], created on April 30, has slightly over 120 users who have signed up to attend, whereas one of the anti-March events [uk, ru], created on May 10 by a member of one of the parliamentary opposition parties, already has 195 potential attendees.

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The latter event – “Let's Stop ‘Gay Propaganda'!” – is the initiative of Oleksandr Aronets, a Kyiv-based member of VO Svoboda (which, ironically, translates as the All-Ukrainian Union “Freedom”). This far-right party won over 10 percent of the vote in the Oct. 28 election, becoming the fourth largest political force represented in the Ukrainian Parliament, with 37 seats (a GV text about it here).

On April 30, Aronets began his anti-Equality March campaign with this Facebook post [uk]:

“The equality march in defense of the gays” will not take place in Kyiv! Very soon, Ukrainians will start preparing to resist the attempts to impose these perversions on us! Resistance will take place on all fronts, physical as well as intellectual! Politicians as well as public figures, writers, the clergy and ordinary Ukrainians will stand up against it, arriving from all over [Ukraine] to Kyiv to defend the traditional family values! Liberal fascism shall not pass! [...]

Nearly two weeks later, the discussion of Aronets’ post still continues. There are now over 700 comments, and while many of them are about the upcoming Equality March, there are plenty of those that address VO Svoboda's aggressively paternalist stance as well. Below is a small selection of these comments.

Ivan Spryn wrote [uk]:

[...] Aren't you sick and tired of shouting slogans left and right? “Shall not pass!”, “liberal fascism!” [...] These constant cliches and slogans aren't doing you any good, but are instead equating you to the communists who never did anything but yell, “let's fulfill the five-year plan in three years!” It's time to outgrow demagoguery and start doing your job quietly.

Igor Nezgodnyj mentions [uk] VO Svoboda's recent legislative initiative to ban abortions in Ukraine (GV text is here):

I've noticed one thing: the worse the situation in the country is, the more [VO Svoboda] is attacking women – proposing to send them to jail for seven years for abortions – as well as gays and lesbians and others – those who aren't as scary and dangerous as [President Viktor Yanukovych]. [...]

Andrew Gizhko wrote [uk]:

One should defend family values in one's own family. If they are endangered by a peaceful gay rally, then they are not values, but an imitation [of values].

Olena Skripka wrote [uk]:

And why aren't you saving Ukrainians from drug addiction and alcoholism? Are gays really Ukraine's biggest problem?! And in general, are they a problem to anyone? Maybe it would be better if you set up sports facilities [in Kyiv's districts of Troyeshchyna and Borshchahivka]? Or you could at least come over [to these districts] to see how many young people are ruining their lives. [Instead], you act like thugs.

Viktoriya Kozlova wrote [uk]:

[...] Don't you feel you're wasting the trust of those people who voted for you in the last election? There are enough real problems in the country, but you, just like the Russian government, are re-orienting the public attention to gays… [...]

Timur HappyBoy Levchuk wrote [uk]:

Looking at the comments, I have only one question: doesn't [...] VO Svoboda realize that most voters expect truly high-quality and useful actions from them [...], not some pathetic populism?

Nataliia Mamitko wrote [uk]:

Ukraine faces many problems in various areas (medicine, economy, education), corruption and chaos are everywhere, and yet VO Svoboda has decided to fight the country's greatest evil – the gays… You didn't have to go to Parliament for that, let alone the fact that it's a violation of human rights.

Aronets chose to reply this [uk] to Mamitko:

[...] Propaganda of various perversions is a violation of human rights!

Viktoriya Kozlova attempted to reason [uk] with Aronets, reminding him that he was making statements on behalf of the political party that many Ukrainians put their trust in last fall, and Aronets, in his turn, reminded her [uk] that VO Svoboda had never been a gay-friendly force in the past:

Viktoriya, where were you one, two or three years ago? Every year we put up resistance to perverts, and we aren't making a secret of it! So don't tell me that “some people put their trust in us”…

Journalist Kateryna Avramchuk wrote this [uk] about VO Svoboda's choice of opponents:

Don't you think that the real perversion is when people like [President Yanukovych, First Vice PM Serhiy Arbuzov and PM Mykola Azarov] are in power, and not homosexuality? You'd be better off if you paid a visit to [Yanukovych at his Mezhyhirya residence] and “put up resistance on all fronts” to that pervert who is hiding behind the fence there… [...]

Aronets replied [uk] to Avramchuk, rehearsing the points he later elaborated on in the lengthy manifesto [uk] posted on the anti-Equality March event page:

First, they'll “just take a walk,” the way it was in Europe, too…, then they'd like us to give them the right to get married, then the right to adopt children, then they'll be setting churches on fire! (the way it was in Norway), and then they'll be filing criminal lawsuits, the way it happened with one priest who was reading the Bible… I don't know what will happen next, but I don't want them to “just take a walk” in Ukraine…

Aronets’ comments sound almost tolerant compared to some of what people write on the anti-Equality March event page. But since it's an open venue, peaceful voices are heard there as well every now and then. Olha Chayko wrote this [uk], for example:

Why beat anyone? I've always suspected that overly aggressive people, who condemn something [theatrically], definitely have something shameful about themselves to conceal… [And those tools that can be turned into improvised weapons would serve much better at summer houses in the countryside.]

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