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EU urged to defend gay rights in Ukraine

Human rights groups urge the EU to raise the issue of Ukraine LGBT rights at summit
Human rights groups urge the EU to raise the issue of LGBT rights in Ukraine at summit

The European Union (EU) was urged to tell the Ukrainian government at the upcoming EU-Ukraine summit to end abuses against LGBT people in Ukraine.

In a letter signed by 22 Ukrainian non governmental organizations (NGOs), and Equal Rights Trust as well as Human Rights Watch, called on the EU to speak out against homophobic bills pending in Ukraine’s parliament and to condemn attacks against LGBT activists.

The summit meeting will be held in Brussels this coming Monday (25 February).

Currently there are two anti-‘homosexual propaganda’ bills are scheduled to be discussed by Ukraine’s parliament, during its current session.

The bills would, among other things, ban the production, publication, or distribution of materials ‘promoting’ homosexuality. Violators would face fines and up to five years in prison.

Anna Kirey, a Finberg fellow at Human Righs Watch said: ‘These homophobic bills are unacceptable for a country that aspires to deeper relations with the European Union’.

‘The EU should state clearly at the summit that discrimination against LGBT people has no place in the EU neighborhood’.

In the letter, the groups urged the EU to call on the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanykovych, to reject the two bills if the parliament adopts them.

A December 2012 resolution adopted by the European Parliament said the bills, if passed, would violate fundamental human rights – including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

The bills would create an unacceptable environment of state-promoted discrimination against LGBT people, including those under 18, the groups said. The bills would also endanger the ability of human rights defenders to protect the rights of LGBT people.

In recent months LGBT activists in Ukraine have been attacked, which some commentators blamed on the increasing homophobic environment in the country.

Kirey stated: ‘Homophobic violence has been on the rise in Ukraine following the introduction of these bills.

‘The EU should make clear it expects the Ukrainian government to ensure a thorough investigation of all attacks against LGBT activists and to hold accountable those responsible for them’.

The groups called on the EU to urge the Ukrainian government to:

Speak out against the homophobic laws pending before parliament, making clear that they breach Ukraine’s international obligations and the fundamental values to which Ukraine is expected to adhere;

  • Ensure effective investigations into acts and threats of violence against members of the LGBT community and hold accountable those responsible for such actions;
  • Ensure adequate protection for organizers of LGBT-related events and their participants; and
  • Condemn, at the highest levels, rhetoric likely to incite discrimination, violence, or hostility against LGBT people and make clear such expressions have no place in Ukrainian society. 
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