A community center that has become a lifeline for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Ukrainians – and hub of humanitarian activity since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine – was broken into and vandalized on Tuesday. Photos show that the door of the Insight office in the northwestern city of Lutsk was shattered, with broken glass and paper covering the entryway. Activists say no electronics or documents appear to be missing.
Insight is a feminist organization that provides medical care, legal aid, and psychosocial services to queer community members. Since February 2022, the group has housed hundreds of people in three emergency shelters run by LGBT human rights defenders, and, together with the Women’s March volunteer team, distributed more than 25,000 emergency aid parcels.
Ukrainian authorities should conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the attack in consultation with Insight’s human rights defenders, who have long been targeted for their work. In April 2022, two unidentified assailants teargassed Insight chair Olena Shevchenko on the streets of Lviv while she was delivering humanitarian aid. This followed a 2016 far-right attack on the Equality Festival in Lviv, LGBT defenders being teargassed at Kyiv Pride in 2018, and two attackers physically beating Shevchenko in 2019 while shouting slurs at her.
Despite the clear pattern of harassment, police did not properly investigate last year’s attack. Lviv Regional Police Department #1 formally launched a criminal investigation and Shevchenko underwent a forensic medical examination, but the police neither informed her of the results of the exam nor did they collect her victim statement. In March 2023, Shevchenko’s lawyer sent a motion to police requesting that they collect her overdue statement from the 2022 attack, and in April her lawyer filed a claim to a Lviv court regarding police inaction.
The authorities need to properly investigate the break-in and damage to Insight’s office, as well as other abuses against Ukrainian LGBT human rights defenders. Such incidents might be reduced if the government were to enact comprehensive legislation that protects people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.