(New York) – The Ukrainian parliament should reject a bill that would unlawfully censor information about homosexuality, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to parliamentary officials. The bill is incompatible with Ukraine’s international obligations and could deny people information they need for their health and safety, Human Rights Watch said.
The private members bill, introduced by several members of parliament, would prohibit providing information about homosexuality to anyone living in Ukraine. The draft bill says it is aimed at banning what it terms the “propaganda of homosexualism.” The letter was sent to the speaker of the parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, and to the head of parliament’s Committee on Freedom of Expression and Information.
“The bill would deprive everyone in Ukraine of access to essential information to decide about their lives and protect their health,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights program at Human Rights Watch. “The supporters of this bill are not protecting adults or children from harm, as they claim, but rather condemning Ukrainians to ignorance, danger, and fear.”
The bill would threaten the health and well-being of Ukrainians, including children, by restricting access to information necessary for them to make critical decisions about their lives, Human Rights Watch said. It could potentially have life-threatening effects by censoring accurate information about HIV and AIDS. It would also bar human rights defenders from promoting the protection of rights and from engaging in free discussion about rights principles, Human Rights Watch said.
The proposed bill, “On introduction of Changes to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine (regarding protection of children’s rights in the safe information sphere), is scheduled for discussion in the autumn of 2011. If enacted, it would violate a large number of the international treaty obligations Ukraine has undertaken to respect human rights. It would violate freedom of expression and the right to information, and would create an unacceptable and unlawful environment of state-promoted discrimination against LGBT people, including those under age 18.
Ukraine has been a party since 1997 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which both prohibits discrimination and protects freedom of expression. On March 31, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted a set of recommendations to member states, including Ukraine, on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The recommendations promote tolerance and respect for LGBT people. It encourages member states to take measures to prevent restrictions on the effective enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“If the Ukrainian parliament were to adopt this discriminatory and stigmatizing legislation, Ukraine would alienate itself from the other member states of the Council of Europe,” Dittrich said. “Lawmakers should realize that the best way to protect Ukrainians is to respect their rights and not to censor them.”