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Europe told: disallow visa-free travel until Ukraine improves on gay rights

Europe told: disallow visa-free travel until Ukraine improves on gay rights

The European parliament was called upon to postpone visa facilitation to ensure Ukraine fulfills its commitments first on LGBT rights.

The appeal by the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Europe comes just a day ahead (16 April) of a scheduled debate a draft resolution in the European parliament on a visa facilitation agreement between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine.

A vote on whether the EU is to allow visa-free travel from the Ukraine is expected on 17 April.

ILGA-Europe called on the European parliament today (15 April) to refer the report on visa facilitation back to the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee for reconsideration and thus postpone the vote.

The advocacy group stressed that Ukraine should honor the commitments it made to introduce a law prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation which it has not yet fulfilled.

Moreover, the Ukrainian parliament is currently debating two separate anti-gay bills.

The first is a ban on the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ which if adopted will seriously undermine the freedom of expression of LGBT people.

The second is a bill criminalizing ‘propaganda of same-sex relationship’ punishable by imprisonment.

These draft laws go completely against the fundamental principles of the European Union and Ukraine commitments.

Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said: ‘We support and encourage the visa facilitation agreement between the European and Ukraine as we believe it will benefit greater openness and increased opportunities to Ukrainian citizens.

‘But in strengthening relations with the EU, Ukraine needs to show its readiness to fulfill commitments on human rights. Supporting the visa facilitation agreement at this time will send out a wrong political signal.

‘Therefore we encourage the European parliament to postpone the vote and therefore give Ukraine the opportunity to deliver on the improvement of human rights and to abandon current initiatives which would in effect criminalize the work of LGBTI human rights defenders and seriously limit freedom of expression’.