U.S. State Department Envoy for Human Rights of LGBTI visits Kyiv ahead of the Equality March. He praised the role of civil society in driving the changes in attitude towards LGBTI but emphasized the need for active engagement of authorities, business and religious communities.
Kyiv, June 7, 2016. Civil society and authorities in Ukraine realize the need to secure equal rights for all citizens including representatives of LGBTI community, said Randy Berry, U.S. State Department’s first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. Mr. Berry met with civil society leaders, organizers of the Equality March, police officials, representatives of the Kyiv state city administration and MPs. “My main takeaway is an expression of hope… There is a real commitment there [among those in power] to protect the rights of assembly and freedom of expression of all Ukrainians,” he said.
Randy Berry noted that in Ukraine, similar to the U.S. and to many countries in the world, the main driver for changes of attitude towards LGBTI community is the civil society. “I found very resourceful, hopeful, very motivated civil society that understands that there are a lot of challenges but if we don’t begin this conversation then nothing ever fundamentally changes,” noted U.S. State Department’s first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.
Berry voiced hope that the Equality March scheduled in Kyiv on June 12 will be held in a peaceful manner and that law enforcement agencies will duly secure the safety of its participants. “People are free to believe whatever they want, but there is a clear separation between believing what one wants and conducting professional duties,” he emphasized.
Randy Berry reminded that a drastically negative attitude that the society has towards the LGBTI community and numerous related stereotypes first of all result from the fact that this theme is being silenced and people often do not understand the reasons for it. “We should never forget that we are talking about fundamental issues of equality based on a completely immutable, unchangeable part of a person’s identity. […] These are not expression of the identity that are chosen of voluntarily, but merely expression of how a person is born,” he emphasized. “We must begin to understand that discrimination and violence against members of the LGBTI community is no different fundamentally than discrimination and violence based on race, ethnicity or gender. LGBTI rights are human rights, human rights are LGBT rights”. Berry also reminded that biased attitude to these people creates serious problems for them in almost all spheres of life including employment. It is thus important that representatives of authorities engage in this complex dialogue by securing protection from discrimination at legislative level, engagement of business and religious communities is also crucial.
Berry stated that his visits to different countries in the world are taking place as part of the U.S. state policy set to improve the human rights situation in the world. These visits aim at protecting the rights of the LGBTI community: “providing security for members of this community not as a special area of focus but merely on the same basis of equality that any other citizen in any country would naturally deserve”. “I’m significantly hopeful of witnessing what is a global movement. There are also negative trends to be concerned about around the world, […] but I still believe that these symbols of hope, these symbols of leadership, aspiration, hard work and friendship are the greater force here,” stated Berry.