Human rights campaigners have criticised Ukraine after the country's parliament passed the first stage of a draft LGBT censorship law. A second vote is now scheduled for later this month.
The bill envisages prison terms of up to five years for
spreading propaganda of homosexuality .
Lance Price, the executive director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, an international gay rights organisation, wrote:
By restricting the publication and dissemination of
materials related to sexual orientation and gender identity, this bill would severely restrict access to information about health, support networks, and social activities for countless young people.
President Viktor Yanukovych has
refused to say whether he will sign the bill into law.
EU Foreign ministers could punish Ukraine for voting for a new law to ban homosexual propaganda by not allowing it visa-free access to Europe.
The laws authors claim gays are a risk to Ukrainian national security. They said:
The spread of homosexuality constitutes a threat to national security as it leads to an HIV AIDS epidemic and also destroys the institute of family and can trigger a demographic crisis.
including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have condemned the law. But perhaps the most significant threat comes from Netherlands Foreign Affairs minister Uri Rosenthal. Speaking in the Dutch parliament, he has already said that if the law
passes the European Union (EU) should suspend plans to allow Ukrainians visa-free access to Europe.
His threat is significant because all European foreign ministers have to agree to visa changes. So just his one vote could push the visa
liberalization off the agenda.
Meanwhile Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have been quick to condemn the recent anti-gay vote in the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.
Ulrike Lunacek MEP, co-president of the LGBT Intergroup
in the European Parliament, said:
Ukraine has set itself on a collision course with the rest of Europe. This law is not only backward-looking; it is purely anti-democratic, informed by nothing else than prejudice, and
fully disrespects Ukraine's legal obligations.
I expected more from my Ukrainian colleagues, but in pre-election times, it is easy to score cheap points by witch-hunting the LGBT community. This is the 21st century, and diversity
exists in all our societies.
If a group of Ukrainian lawmakers get their way, TV shows and movies sympathetically portraying homosexuals such as Brokeback Mountain will be banned. So will gay pride parades.
The recently introduced bill, supported by the president's
representative in parliament, would impose prison terms of up to five years and unspecified fines for spreading propaganda of homosexuality , defined as positive public depiction of gays in public.
It has sparked an outcry from rights
organizations in Ukraine and beyond, who condemn the bill as a throwback to Soviet times when homosexuality was a criminal offense. They also warn that harassing the gay community could lead to a spike in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine, by driving gays
Although homosexuality was decriminalized in Ukraine and neighboring Russia after the fall of communism, animosity toward gays remains high across the former Soviet sphere. The hostility toward homosexuals raises concern wider
questions about tolerance in Ukraine and whether the country is truly capable of embracing Western values as strives to join the European Union.
No date has been set for a vote on the bill in parliament, but the lawmakers hopeit will be considered
in September before a parliamentary election in October.