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Ukraine blocks progress on EU membership over gay workers’ rights

Ukraine blocks progress on EU membership over gay workers’ rights

Yuriy Lutsenko was one of the important figures of the Euromaidan movement and Ukraine's revolution.

The Ukrainian parliament has blocked a bill to protect LGBTI workers – even though it will cost Ukrainians visa-free travel in the EU.

The idea had been to grant LGBTIs protection against being fired because of who they are or discriminated against at work.

That is one of the conditions the European Union is imposing before it will allow Ukrainians the right to travel around the continent without visas – a major right.

Passing the bill, which mirrors EU-wide law, would also have helped pave the way for Ukraine to join the union.

It’s the second time Parliament refused to pass the law, after a first vote held just a week ago also returned a negative verdict.

Right now, Ukraine doesn’t have a single law against hate crime or discrimination.

Even supporters of the bill seemed to portray LGBTI rights as a necessary compromise rather than a desirable outcome in the debate.

‘It’s better to have a gay parade on Khreshchatyk than Russian tanks in the center of the Ukrainian capital,’ said Yuriy Lutsenko, former leader of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and member of the president’s faction in parliament.

‘I believe that if we go to Europe, we must recognize the rules adopted in the European Union. Unfortunately, in two or three parliamentary factions there are grave doubts.’

Yet despite this support, only 207 MPs voted in favor of the new law. To come into effect, 226 would have had to cast a positive vote.

Gay journalist and activist Maxim Eristavi said he didn’t think it was a matter of debate about LGBTI issues, but rather founded on homophobia deeply rooted in the political elites, but also in society and the public as a whole.

‘In the last year, or even in the last two years, the situation got so much worse in so many ways, especially when it comes to violence that is absolutely not controlled by law enforcement bodies,’ he told Gay Star News today.

‘There is a rising culture of absence of prosecution for those initiating violence against minorities, including but not limited to LGBTI.’

And despite big news channels airing interviews with top anti-gay vigilantes, who Eristavi said are proudly explaining their tactics without fear of punishment, this issue is something the country could easily fix even without outside intervention.

‘In case of Ukraine, where so many people really aspire to rejoin the European Family, it seems they can accept a lot of things they don’t understand for the sake of the greater good,’ he said.

But it seems politicians are the ones reluctant to let the discussion continue rather than resolve the matter.

Eristavi said they use LGBTI issues as a political tool and don’t want to let that go by granting rights.

‘It’s easier than just talking about the real issues.’