10.02.2009 | Oleksandr Zinchenkov

Ukrainian State and society against gays and lesbians: a brief report for 2008


The report just issued points to various violations of the rights of homosexuals during 2008.  These include violations of the principle of freedom and non-discrimination; the right to information; to freedom of peaceful assembly and to form civic associations; access to justice. The report concludes that homophobia is widespread in Ukrainian society, manifesting itself among other things in the behaviour of some state bodies, and statements from politicians, representatives of the Church and extremist groups.

1.  On 10 February 2008 national TV channel “Studio 1 + 1” showed a film at 22.15 about the relationship between two young men. Following this the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council approached the National Expert Commission for the Protection of Public Morality [the Commission] for an expert opinion regarding the legality of broadcasting this film. The Commission concluded that the film “could cause harm to people’s physical, intellectual and moral – psychological state, including that of children and young people”. It stated therefore that broadcasting the film was in breach of the law on the protection of public morality. As a result, the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council prohibited the showing of the film except between 23.00 and 6.00.

2.  At the end of 2008 a new draft Code of Labour Laws was submitted to parliament and passed in its first reading on 20 May 2008. The anti-discrimination article in the law does not include sexual orientation as prohibited grounds for discrimination. One of the authors of the draft law actually stated in an interview that he considered that homosexuals are in breach of all moral norms, and that homosexuality is an illness, but did acknowledge that European norms would probably remain in the law, but that he was personally against them.

Despite numerous appeals from the “Our World” Centre on the need to specifically ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the norm has not been included in the draft law.

3.  In March 2008 a letter was posted on the website of the extremist group “Love against homosexuality” from two members of parliament from the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko Ihor Yeresko and Vitaly Barvynenko. The letter states their view that propaganda and spread of homosexuality in the country jeopardized national security and undermined the authority of the rights and freedoms of the individual and family.

4.  “Love against homosexuality” also informed of a letter from the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information, which stated that the Committee shared concern over heightened propaganda via the media of various forms of sexual perversions. “”Such a situation makes it incumbent on state bodies to take decisions and urgent measures to put an end to popularization of homosexuality, lesbianism and other sexual deviations which do not meet the moral principles of society.” The letter was signed by the Head of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Committee Vasyl Ivanina.

5. On 16 May 2008 the Mykolaiv Association of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals “LiGA” were planning to hold a flash mob to mark International Day against Homophobia. Their information action was aimed at breaking down superstitions and stereotypes regarding homosexuals and proposed placing posters on advertising boards in the city, holding three street actions, and showing a documentary film in the organization’s office. The local authorities were, in accordance with legislation, notified of these plans.

In its response, representatives of the Mykolaiv authorities stated that they had received a request from the Head of a Christian denomination to prohibit such actions by members of sexual minorities. “Therefore, in order to maintain law and order and prevent conflict on the grounds of moral and religious feelings of city residents, the holding of flash mobs in Mykolaiv is prohibited.”, the letter, signed by the First Deputy Mayor reads. This is a flagrant violation of the right to peaceful assembly, enshrined in the Constitution.

6.  At the end of May members of the Mykolaiv Association of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals “LiGA” lodged applications with the Central District Court in Mykolaiv and with the Economic Court over the plan on holding flash mobs. However both courts refused to examine the case claiming that it did not fall within their jurisdiction.

7.  In September 2008 the Ukrainian Organization of Lesbians and Gays approach a number of state bodies with an action plan to counter discrimination in Ukraine on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The document contained a broad list of measures which need to be taken to safeguard the civic rights of homosexuals. However no constructive responses were received.

8.  On 22 February 2008 the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal investigation against editorial staff of the newspaper “Gay.Ua” (published by the “Our World” Centre) on the basis of Article 301 of the Criminal Code on spreading pornography. The newspaper, which is registered as a printed publication, contains information, entertainment and erotic material intended for gays. It is circulated among subscribers, not available or intended for a wide audience. On the other hand, openly erotic journals, designed for heterosexuals are on free sale in newspaper kiosk, and their editorial offices are not obstructed in spreading pornography. The actions of the prosecutor’s office were thus of a discriminatory nature. They also run counter to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights which has stated that “it is especially necessary to understand whether the indecent materials were shown to a wide audience.”

9.  On 12 December 2008 the Department of Justice for the Chernivtsi Region registered the civic organization “People of Bukovyna” for homosexuals. However officials forced the founders of the organization to remove from their articles of association the wording “sexual orientation”, agreeing to the absurd wording “gender orientation”. Thus one of the aims of the new organization now reads as “promoting an increase in tolerance in society towards representatives of non-traditional gender orientation”.

10.  As part of the new UN mechanism on monitoring human rights observance in different countries – universal periodic reviews, in May – June 2008 the UN Human Rights Council reviewed Ukraine’s Report. During the working meeting Slovenia noted that there had been an increase in homophobia in Ukraine over recent years, and drew attention to problems which homosexuals encounter in the workplace and in dealing with the law enforcement agencies. As part of the recommendations it was proposed to consider the possibility of using the Jakarta Principles of applying international legal norms on human rights with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity as a guide in drawing up policy. However Ukraine rejected this recommendation.

11. On 18 December 2008 a Joint Statement by Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans-gender persons was for the first time made at the UN General Assembly. It was signed by 66 countries. Ukraine did not support it. In this respect the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Secretary stated that “In this situation we do not have a problem and do not need to talk about this. In Ukraine this phenomenon is decriminalized and there is no punishment, no persecution”.

(It should be stressed that this Joint Statement has aroused considerable controversy mainly because of the Catholic Church’s stand against it.  The aim of the document is to decriminalize homosexuality, which can even be punishable by death in some countries - translator).

Oleksandr Zinchenkov, “Our World Centre”

(very slightly abridged)

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