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Ukraine: Gay Community Center Harassed in Lugansk

Press-release by Our World Gay and Lesbian Center, Lugansk, Ukraine

LUGANSK -- The Community Center for lesbian and gay people in Lugansk, the first of its kind in the New Independent States, had its functioning suspended on September 15th. Since its opening on August 18, 2001, the Center was able to be in regular operation less than one month.

On the afternoon of the 15th, staff members were holding trainings on the prevention of HIV spreading among gays and lesbians. The training was being given within the framework of the Counterpart International health program funded by USAID. Suddenly, representatives of Perla-Ukraina Ltd., lessor of the premises for the Community Center, appeared. In an absolutely unlawful manner they strongly demanded the immediate termination of all business activities and that we leave their building.

Later on the premises during the evening of the same day the new "Our" gay club began its work. The club's party was dedicated to City of Lugansk Day, and attracted more than 70 visitors. However, the so-called "representatives of the owner" entered a room containing the knife-switch controlling the whole building's electricity supply and switched off the electricity without notice.

On September 21, someone unknown entered the premises of the Community Center and simply replaced the locks. Thus our visitors were and continue to be plainly insulted and humiliated. Moreover, clearly our organization suffered essential moral and material damages.

What has become the cause of these unjust and outlaw acts arbitrarily taken against us? We have learned from reliable sources that, reputedly, the actual building owner is planning to be a candidate for election to the Parliament of Ukraine during the spring of 2002. Thus the basis becomes clear for the urgent actions aimed at pushing gays and lesbians out into the street. We are confident that once again as in the recent past we have suffered an act manifesting prejudice against people of homosexual orientation in wider Ukrainian society.

In the near future a scheduled visit of Mr. Carlos Pascual, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, is planned to our city. The purpose of his visit is to appraise the situation of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS -- and the vital struggle against the epidemic in the region. We have invited Ambassador Pascual to meet with us and to support our work in this area.

We continue our activities by every means possible and hope that in the near future our Community Center will prevail as a good base for development and strengthening of gay-community in the region. Now once again we have to defend our civil and human rights.

Also, we shall do all in our powers so that the present difficulties cannot influence our plans to organize "Our Rainbow" Cultural Conference upcoming in December. The Conference is dedicated to the tenth anniversary of decriminalization of homosexual relations between men in Ukraine.

Andriy Maymulakin
Our World Gay & Lesbian Center
24 September 2001

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