Call for real measures against discrimination, not empty phrases
A number of human rights organizations including the Coalition against Discrimination in Ukraine; the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union have called on President Yanukovych to veto Law No. 10468 On the principles for preventing and countering discrimination in Ukraine. The law was adopted by parliament on 8 September.
The adoption of an anti-discrimination law is one of the strict requirements of the EU visa liberalization action plan.
Human rights groups are concerned that the haste with which parliament has passed a law is aimed at creating the appearance of compliance and getting good publicity in the run up to the parliamentary elections. The law, they say, has not taken into account a number of proposals put forward during public discussion organized by the Justice Ministry. They point out that the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Inter-Ethnic Relations and the Cabinet of Ministers ignored both the Parliamentary Legal Department’s criticism and the fact that the Council of Europe had not yet provided its assessment.
The bill, in its present state, they are convinced will contribute little to the task of combating discrimination.
The definitions contained in the new law make it virtually impossible to prove discrimination in court.
There are also no real mechanisms for countering discrimination and defending victims. They had recommended, for example, the creation of a special Commission on Countering Discrimination as exists in many democratic countries.
The Coalition against Discrimination proposed clearly specifying the grounds for discrimination which the law prohibits. This was rejected by the Justice Ministry which claimed that all such grounds are covered by “and others”. As it stands now, the law prohibits “restriction or privileges with respect to a person or group on the basis of race, skin colour, political, religious or other convictions; sex; age; ethnic or social origin; family or financial position; place of residence; language or other grounds”. Nazar Boyarsky from the Coalition calls this the standard list and says that it needs to be extended.
Svyatislav Sheremet, Head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine says that the Ministry’s argument that sexual orientation and gender identification are included by the words “other grounds” is unconvincing. It is disturbing that discrimination of homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals is not directly mentioned in the anti-discrimination law given that discrimination against them is rife.
Mr Sheremet believes that the President’s Administration will decide that the President should sign the law if they think it will get them good marks with the EU. In fact, however, he believes that the EU will not find the law meets European standards. One way or another, amendments will be needed. He considers that the position of the Human Rights Ombudsperson will be crucial and says that as far as he is aware, Ms Lutskovska is also not impressed with the current version of the bill.
The law as it stands at present does not provide an exhaustive list of changes needed to legislation. It states instead that the Cabinet of Ministers will provide proposals for such amendments within a three month period.
All quiet on the anti-discrimination front
Nazar Boyarsky believes that the law, if it comes into effect, will not make any real change to the situation. There is only one practical innovation, this being the carrying out of an assessment of possible discriminatory points in draft normative and legal acts.
Natalya Belitser from the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy expresses frustration that the assurances by MPs that suggestions put forward from civic groups would be fully considered once the bill had been passed in its first reading have proven empty.
This has misled the public and has also messed about the European bodies whose assessment of the draft law was asked for but not awaited.
The inadequacy of the law in question is perhaps especially highlighted by the fact that another draft law is also presently awaiting consideration by the same MPs – a bill which would outlaw what its authors understand to be “propaganda of homosexuality”.
Parliamentarians have, unfortunately, proven equally oblivious to the outrage which that law has elicited both within Ukraine and abroad.
This also makes it difficult to feel any optimism about the law presently awaiting the President’s signature.
Comments by Nazar Boyarsky, Sviatoslav Sheremet and Natalya Belitser from here