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 further underground.
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.
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
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.
International bodies 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.