Ukraine: Homophobic Legal Initiatives in Sync with Public Attitudes

Global Voices Online
May 28, 2012

Kyiv's first Gay Pride Parade ever, permitted by the authorities, was supposed to take place on Sunday, May 20. Fearing attacks, the event's organizers had kept the venue as secret as possible, but these precautions did not prevent some of their opponents from showing up. Shortly after Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine, announced the cancellation of the parade, he was attacked and severely beaten by a group of masked men (a video of the attack is here).

Homophobic attitudes are widespread in Ukraine, and two counter-rallies, organized by anti-LGBT groups, did take place at other locations in Kyiv on the day of the failed attempt to hold the first Gay Pride.

In the interesniy_kiev (Interesting Kyiv) LJ community, LJ user elektraua posted a photo report [ru] from one of these events. Slogans there included "Papa mama is good, papa papa is bad," "Homosexuality is a threat to national security," and "Love against homosexuality." A few brides in white wedding gowns were present, surrounded by men carrying Ukrainian national flags.

At the end of his post, LJ user elektraua asked readers to share their views on the idea of holding a Gay Pride Parade. The discussion has 357 comments, some of which are too savage to translate. Below is a small selection from this rather crowded conversation [ru, uk]:


[...] I'm very glad that the parade got cancelled. Most of all I'm glad that our people aren't buying [tolerance], which is so popular today, and that the majority still favor traditional family. [...]


Is traditional family where papa and mama are divorced?



I think that the U.S. Army had the best option a while ago: the "don't ask - don't tell" approach. [...]


[...] The only problem with the ban on gay marriages is, as far as I know, the impossibility of having "legal rights" to one's partner. That is, there are people who've been together for many years [...], and then something bad happens and one isn't allowed to visit the other at, say, the emergency room, or is not able to make decisions that are usually made by spouses/close relatives, when the victim cannot decide for himself... This is tragic.



Why show off your sexuality? Heterosexuals aren't holding parades, for some reason... And if you look at [homosexuality] as a deviation, a disease, then there should be parades of oncology, TB, AIDS patients and so on down the medical encyclopedia... As for freedom - is anyone not allowing them? The [criminal code] article [banning homosexual relationships] has been removed a long time ago... The parade is harmful [...], if we relax for just a second, tomorrow any of our children, having seen this dirt, may start having doubts about their own nature... [...]



What gay parades are you talking about in a country the capital of which is aiming to become the world capital of sex tourism!!!! Ukrainian girls won't allow competition!



I think it's simple: some people consider such parades propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations, others think of them as their lawful right to freedom of self-expression. It reminds me of the situation with minarets in Switzerland, where some consider the construction of minarets their lawful right to religion, and others view it as propaganda of Islam. The society is divided, conflicts [...] are possible. What did they do in the democratic, European Switzerland? - they held a referendum, and the minority agreed with the decision of the majority, based on the referendum's results.


I don't think we need to hold a referendum here. The attitude is obvious without it. And with such an attitude of the majority, it is suicidal to hold the parades.



Today [gays] are demanding equal rights for themselves, and tomorrow zoophiles will declare themselves a healthy part of the society and demand marriages with animals... And some people, just like here, will be [vehemently] trying to prove that they are people like any other, taxpayers, it's just that they are different... [damn], and all this in a country where the rates of population decline are catastrophic!


Population is declining mainly because people are leaving the country where conservatism rules and there are no perspectives. Also, people aren't having children because they [can't afford] to feed them. [...] Judge by the deeds and not by convictions - if [gay] communities act anti-socially and aggressively, then they should be treated accordingly. But they are usually productive and creative [...].

Olena Bilozerska posted a photo report [uk] from another May 20 anti-LGBT rally, the March of Healthy Youths, which also included some anti-regime, as well as racist and xenophobic slogans and chants. Bilozerska shared her view on the Gay Pride Parade:

[...] I am against any kind of persecution of people of untraditional orientation, but I'm also categorically against gay-parades, as I consider them a sign of degradation of the state in which they are taking place.

She also offered this explanation of why the authorities had not banned the May 20 event in Kyiv:

[...] The reasons there are attempts to hold it are understandable - [President Viktor Yanukovych] would like to keep political prisoners, including [ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko], in jails, by [trading them back from Europe in exchange] for gay-parades. [His goal is] to prove by these parades that Ukraine has a sufficient level of democracy :(. [...]

Judging by the recent legislative activity, however, representatives of all major political forces in Ukraine do not seem to care much about what "Europe" might think of them; with just five months remaining before the October 28 parliamentary elections, they appear quite in sync with the conservative-minded segments of their electorate.

On June 20, 2011, MPs from the Party of Regions, the Communist Party, the Our Ukraine–People's Self-Defense Bloc, and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc proposed changes to a number of laws [uk] that would ban "propaganda of homosexuality" (draft law #8711). On May 16, 2012, the parliamentary Committee on the Issues of Freedom of Speech and Information found certain inconsistencies in the submitted document and recommended further work on it in preparation for the second reading.

Volodymyr Ariev, an MP from the Our Ukraine–People's Self-Defense Bloc and, formerly, a well-known journalist, wrote this [uk] on his Facebook page on May 20:

[...] I don't want to watch how two [homosexuals] are kissing in public in front of me or in front of my child. It's unnatural, it's against God's Laws (and I'm a religious person), it offends me - and why is no one taking my voice into account or refusing me the right to [have this opinion]? Does it seem "wrong" to some people? But the voice is there, and my right to voice my opinion is the right of a free person. And also, I'm against allowing homosexuals to adopt children. If you want [to have children], have your own, if you manage to. [...]

On March 30, 2012, Party of Regions MP Vadym Kolesnichenko (who is, technically, Volodymyr Ariev's political opponent) submitted a draft law [uk] on "the ban of propaganda of homosexuality aimed at children" (#10290). In the explanatory note [uk], posted both on the Ukrainian Parliament's site and, in an abridged version, on Kolesnichenko's blog on Ukrainska Pravda, the bill's author blamed Ukraine's "moral and spiritual ruin" on "open access to information from abroad and the work of certain foreign organizations [...] that are imposing [an alien ideology] on the Ukrainian public":

[...] One of such negative expressions of liberalization processes in Ukraine is the popularization of homosexuality, its open propaganda in all spheres of social life. [...]

Kolesnichenko also mentioned similar anti-LGBT initiatives by legislators in Lithuania, Slovenia and Russia (a GV text on the latter is here), as well as the 2010 anti-Gay Pride riots in Belgrade, Serbia (a GV text on it is here).

On May 23, the parliamentary expert commission published its assessment [uk] of Kolesnichenko's draft law [if the file doesn't open, please change the extension from .rtf to .doc], concluding that the bill should be scrapped due to numerous "grammatical, stylistic and other drawbacks" (among which is a misspelled Ukrainian word meaning "lesbian" in the definition of homosexuality in Article 1: «лісбеянство» instead of «лесбіянство»), and because "if necessary, the issues [addressed in the bill] can be regulated by introducing changes to the existing laws, and not by passing a separate special law."

This last remark by the expert commission apparently alludes to the aforementioned draft law #8711, a collective initiative by the Ukrainian MPs who are better known to disagree, often quite violently, on a number of other issues. (For example, on May 24, a rather spectacular fistfight occurred in the Parliament [video], starring Vadym Kolesnichenko, who had co-drafted the controversial language law [uk] that was being "discussed" by the MPs that day.)

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