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Ukraine: Homophobic Bill Considered Ahead of Election

Shortly after scrapping [en] the infamous defamation bill in early October, Ukrainian parliamentarians passed another scandalous proposal in the first reading, aimed at “defending children from the propaganda of homosexual lifestyle and the HIV/AIDS infection associated with it” [uk].

This is not the first homophobic legal initiative that has appeared in the Ukrainian Parliament in the recent months, which is easily explained by the approaching October 28, 2012, general election and the legislators’ willingness to capitalize on the widespread homophobic attitudes in the Ukrainian society (see this GV post).

The approval in the first hearing, however, has pushed the bill ahead in the legislative process that might now end in making “propaganda of homosexuality” – however ambiguous the definition of it is – an offense punishable by both administrative and criminal law.

The fact that the bill's authors come from different political camps reflects the popularity of homophobic attitudes both across the political spectrum and in the society in general. After the first reading, rather than highlighting such issues as the bill’s legal ambiguity and discriminative nature, most online discussions centered on the political motives of the MPs that proposed the initiative.

Thus, many journalists criticized the lawmakers for using the bill as a way of scoring some pre-election points with the rather homophobic electorate while distracting the public from the more “real” and immediate issues, such as the economy.

Under one of such critical articles [uk], user TBNT left the following comment [uk], echoing this popular view:

The six marginal MPs who are unlikely to make it into the next Parliament [...] want to get in at any cost through the [majoritarian election system]. And since this bunch has not achieved much in their lives, during the last month before the elections they must demonstrate to their [goofy] electorate that they've done something useful at last.

Facebook users also shared the demotivational picture posted on RFE/RL's Facebook Youth Project Page [uk], depicting the masterminds of the Legal Initiative No 8711. The caption under the picture reads [uk]:

I am a Member of the Parliament. I do not want to do any [real] work. I want to fight homosexuals.

A demotivator depicting MPs behind the scandalous bill No 8711. Originally posted by Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe on Facebook

Under another online article – “Behind the smoke screen of the anti-homosexual propaganda bill” [uk] – about the lawmakers using the controversial issue to distruct the public from corrupt legislative schemes, user far_far_away wrote [uk]:

In my opinion, the [article] is correct and convincing. But I do not think that the MPs only played on [the sick societal attitudes]. Of course, they did to some extent, but it seems that, unfortunately, they also supported this obscurantist law quite genuinely. It's a banality: the country's government is just a reflection of the country itself [...]

While the discussions continued, the reactions from the international community and human rights organizations were less than positive [en]. Many Internet users echoed the concerns.

In response to Deutsche Welle's article [uk] comparing the status of LGBT people in Ukraine and Germany, posted on the forum of Maidan.org.ua, activist Andrei Kravchiuk wrote [uk]:

Due to the adoption of the Law 8711 (if it is passed), Ukraine would be left without visa-free regime with the EU and without the Association Agreement. I am not simply forecasting, I am retelling a clear statement made by the Dutch Foreign Ministry almost six months before the vote on this bill in the Parliament. [...]

Responding to international criticism, the Ukrainian President, however, made a rather vague remark, poitning out that it was complex and required considering the viewpoints of “the parliamentarians, the public and the Church.”

As the controversy unfolded, freedom of expression, censorship and LGBT issues in Ukraine became the centerpoint of discussions in the framework of public art events [uk] and press publications [ru].

Recently, Ukrainian Facebook users set up a group “STOP 8711” [uk] that currently has 1,484 members.

Considering that less than a week is left until the parliamentary elections, it is unlikely that the MPs would vote on the bill again before the Election Day on Sunday, October 28. The reactions raised by the legislative proposal, however, prove that the issue of LGBT rights in Ukraine remains acute and controversial and deserves serious public dicsussion and legal consideration.

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