Russia invaded Ukraine over a month ago. Conflict and violence have displaced millions of civilians and forced them to flee their homes. As if the horrors Russia is inflicting on them were not enough, some people and communities in Ukraine are seeing their own country and government turn their backs on them. This is true for all minorities in Ukraine, but little is said about the fact that transgender women are currently being harassed, left behind and forced to turn back at the border.
What is going on?
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The invasion caused millions of civilians to flee to neighboring countries, but some face more difficulties than others. In addition to all the inhumane and deplorable war crimes that Russia has committed, Ukrainian trans women are discriminated against by their own country, mainly because of the enactment of martial law.
Under normal circumstances, Ukraine is ranked 39th for overall livability out of 49 European countries for its treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community according to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, ILGA Europe. This ranking is based on the impact of countries’ policies and laws on the lives of LGBTQIA+ people, including everything from family issues and asylum rights to gender recognition and freedom of expression.
Trans people have been legally recognized in Ukraine since 2017. However, while this is progress, it falls far short of solving the difficulties of these communities. Before a person’s gender can be confirmed on official documents, they must endure a grueling bureaucratic process and intensive psychiatric observation.
The day Russian forces invaded the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law. For those who don’t know, martial law is a temporary overcoming of the political system of a country where power is transferred to military authority. Although the details and specifics of martial law vary by country, it is universally invoked in times of war. In this type of law, the authority of civilian leaders is replaced by that of military leaders.
Specific Issues Trans Women Face
In addition to mobilizing more than 36,000 reservists, martial law in Ukraine stipulates that all “biological” men between the ages of 18 and 60 are prohibited from leaving the country because they are “of fighting age”. These people must be conscripted and fight in the army against imminent attacks by Russian forces.
Olena Shevchenkohuman rights defender and president of Insight, a Ukrainian LGBTQ+ organization, said in an article in the Guardian, “Technically, [martial] The law also applies to trans people, including certified trans men and trans women who have not changed their documents. But it seems that Ukrainian border guards even prevent trans people with a valid certificate reflecting their new gender from leaving Ukraine, and no one knows why. If a civilian violates martial law, since civilian courts are suspended, the defendants could be tried in military courts.
By law, trans people cannot pass internal checkpoints if their IDs do not match their gender identity. This includes trans and non-binary people. If recruited into the military, trans and non-binary people are more likely to be harassed and abused by their peers.