Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 triggered Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. More than 6 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the invasion, with 8 million thought to be displaced in the country itself. As the conflict continues, Ukraine’s LGBTQ refugees are facing additional challenges as they seek shelter in neighboring countries.
War poses the biggest threat to society’s most vulnerable and persecuted communities, with LGBTQ individuals more likely to face violence and abuse by security forces. During periods of armed conflict, LGBTQ refugees are also more likely to be arbitrarily detained and denied safe housing and health services. LGBTQ advocates are trying to increase awareness of the types of threats LGBTQ refugees may encounter when fleeing areas of conflict.
LGBTQ individuals in Ukraine are facing unique obstacles, whether they have managed to flee the country or remain internally displaced. Since the conflict broke out, many transgender women have been unable to leave Ukraine due to the country’s conscription laws; individuals whose government IDs still indicate their sex as male are forced to stay and serve in the military.
Many who have fled the country have settled in neighboring Poland and Hungary — two countries notorious for homophobia and anti-gay legislation. Both Poland and Hungary have drawn sharp criticism from human rights organizations and the European Union for their treatment of LGBTQ citizens. In Poland, same-sex couples are still unable to marry or adopt children, while Hungary recently passed a law banning discussions of homosexuality and transgender issues in schools. As the conflict continues, LGBTQ Ukrainians may continue to face discrimination and persecution in their own country and the countries in which they seek refuge.