Nothing To Be Proud Of: Discrimination Against LGBTI People In Ukraine

Report
May 17, 2013

Nothing To Be Proud Of: Discrimination Against LGBTI People In Ukraine

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people in Ukraine continue to face discrimination, and many are targeted for violence and abuse by public officials and members of the public.

International and European human rights law prohibits discrimination - when someone is treated differently, in law or in practice, in a way that impairs or nullifies the enjoyment of their rights - because of a characteristic such as ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. These characteristics are described as 'prohibited grounds for discrimination' under international law.

Ukraine is failing to protect the basic rights of LGBTI people such as the right to be free from discrimination, the right to security of person and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Ukraine has an international obligation to uphold the principle of non-discrimination and ensure that all individuals, including LGBTI people, are treated equally irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity in both law and fact.

Amnesty International has documented several violent attacks against LGBTI people, some carried out by public officials, and some by members of the public. In some cases such attacks have resulted in death. Yet the authorities fail to investigate these crimes promptly, thoroughly, effectively and impartially, and, moreover, fuel the pervasive negative stereotypes about LGBTI people in Ukrainian society which underpin the attacks.

To date, no Pride march has taken place in Ukraine. In 2012 a Pride march planned for 20 May was cancelled by the organisers because they had received multiple violent threats from various individuals and groups and because the Kyiv police failed to guarantee the safety of the demonstrators, telling them 'people would get hurt'. Other public events by LGBTI groups have been attacked by extremists, while police were present and LGBTI activists have been prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

If the government of Ukraine is to succeed in its ambition to achieve association and visa liberalisation with the European Union (EU) it must ensure that its legislation is in line with European human rights standards, and must implement international and regional human rights agreements including by upholding the principle of non-discrimination and ensuring that all individuals, including LGBTI people, are treated equally in both law and fact.

Attempts to bring Ukraine into line with European standards on preventing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity have unleashed vociferous opposition from religious and conservative groups in society. In February 2013 the law "On Principles of Prevention and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine" was passed by parliament. In March 2013, the government presented parliament with amendments to the law that only prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in relation to employment.

Even this limited attempt to bring the law closer to international and European human rights standards gave rise to strong opposition and is still under discussion. At the same time parliament is discussing two draft laws that threaten to seriously limit the enjoyment of human rights of LGBTI people. In October 2012 parliament passed the first reading of draft law 8711 (now 0945), which would ban any production or publication of products "promoting homosexuality", including through media, television or radio broadcasting; printing or distribution of publications; import, production or distribution of creative writings, cinematography or video materials. The law foresees fines or prison sentences of up to five years. Another draft law (No. 1155, formerly 10290) would introduce measures "to protect the rights of children, ensure the healthy moral, spiritual and psychological development of children", promote the idea that a family consists of "a union between a man and a woman" and to "overcome the demographic crisis". The law would ban positive or neutral information about consensual adult same-sex relationships, and provides an exhaustive list of activities that would fall under the ban, including meetings, parades, actions, pickets, demonstrations and other mass gatherings aimed at disseminating non-critical information about same-sex consensual conduct. The law also bans any educational activities regarding homosexuality or, presumably, the lives of LGBTI individuals, and any messages, articles or appeals in the media. Both laws would, if passed, contribute to perpetuate negative stereotyping about LGBTI people, discriminate against LGBTI people and severely limit their rights to freedom of expression, and assembly, as well as limit the rights of children to access information.