Need for improved anti-discrimination legislation stressed


Ukraine has no effective mechanisms for protecting people against discrimination and the law recently passed by the Verkhovna Rada (On the Principles of Preventing and Countering Discrimination) needs radical change.  This was the message heard during a conference on the role of NGOs in forming and implementing anti-discrimination legislation in Ukraine. It was organized by the Coalition against Discrimination in Ukraine together with the Human Rights Ombudsperson, with the financial support of the International Renaissance Foundation.

As reported, Ukrainian NGOs, including the Coalition, have criticized the bill.  They point to the limited list of types of discrimination which it prohibits; the fact that it does not create an effective mechanism against discrimination and does not envisage making amendments to other laws.

The adoption of an anti-discrimination law is one of the strict requirements of the EU visa liberalization action plan. The haste with which the bill was pushed through has made NGOs suspect that the exercise was about gaining brownie points with the EU and had little to do with fighting discrimination.

The case was cited of Boris Bondarenko, a blind Kharkiv man gave a personal account of the problems experienced due to the lack of effective mechanisms. In 2010 a minicab driver* rudely refused to let him travel, as he is entitled, for free.  He actually hit Boris, inflicting light injuries. The police at first refused to initiate a criminal investigation, and Boris’s defenders turned to the Prosecutor’s Office which passed the case to the court. . The court found the driver guilty of causing injury and sentenced him to 100 hours of community work. It also ordered the transport firm to pay 8 thousand UAH in moral damages, while the driver was ordered to pay 3 thousand.  The judge however refused to find that Mr Bondarenko had been the victim of discrimination.

Dmytro Zharyi decided to tackle the acute problem of lack of ramps for wheelchair access after a visit to the doctor, following which he tried to obtain the prescribed medicine from the chemist nearby.  What passed for a “ramp” was at best a way for rolling a pushchair up, but the angle basically corresponded to the stairs and there was no question of wheelchair access.

Since this was so clearly in breach of all regulations, Dmytro decided to stand up for his rights.  He assumed all could be resolved without the courts, and spoke first with the chemist’s management.  This proved fruitless and 6 months later he approached both the Chief Planning Department in Dnipropetrovsk and the Regional Inspectorate on the Quality of Medication asking them to look into the situation and take measures.  When they in turn did nothing, he was forced to turn to the court.  In his suit he appealed against the results of the assessment about the chemist, and demanded that the chemist’s licence be revoked. He provided an independent assessment which found that the chemist did not provide access for people with disabilities. The only ramp installed was not only in breach of architectural norms, but was dangerous.

Dmytro explains that according to a specific feature of the legislation in question, were his suit to be successful, this would close all the chemists of the entire chain.  He says that this involves over 100 chemists around the country.  He asked the court to demand to see the documents submitted by the firm in question to get a licence to prove that they had received it unlawfully.

Dmytro even had a visit from representatives of the chain. He presumes that they wanted to see whether this really was one man’s initiative, or provocation from their competitors.  And, of course, to get him off their back.  That chemist closed up, however another has opened in the same place with no better access.  Yet both the first instance court and the court of appeal rejected Dmytro’s application to have this declared discriminatory.

Information about the conference from here

*  marshroutka – carries up to around 15 people and is much cheaper than a taxi but a 

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