Outspoken Ukrainian defender of LGBTI rights, Vitalina Koval, was attacked in 2017 and 2018 at International Women’s Day events. But her prominence in Write for Rights 2018 and an Urgent Action issued on March 1, 2019 appear to have protected her this year. The police increased their presence on March 8 at the IWD events and both Vitalina and her colleagues remained safe throughout.
On 19 February, as the last Write for Rights 2018 messages were reaching Ukrainian authorities, the Director of Amnesty Ukraine and a senior leader from Amnesty’s International Secretariat met with eight senior managers of the Ministry of Interior in Ukraine about Vitalina Koval. They discussed her case in the context of a spike in violence by far-right groups.
The Amnesty delegation handed over a letter from Amnesty’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo about the 400,000 worldwide actions taken in support of Vitalina Koval during Write for Rights 2018. The Ministry of Interior assured the delegation that they had launched an investigation into the earlier attacks as a hate crime and that the police would take all necessary measures to protect Vitalina in the March 8 International Women’s Day 2019 march. They did!
Despite the violent attacks she suffered in past marches and the presence of right-wing groups, Vitalina and her colleagues remained safe during the event in her home town of Uzhgorod to call for women’s rights and LGBTI rights to be respected.