(Brussels) – The European Union should urge the Ukrainian government at the upcoming EU-Ukraine summit to end abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Ukraine, Human Rights Watch and 23 other groups said today in a letter to EU officials.
The letter, signed by 22 Ukrainian nongovernmental organizations, and Equal Rights Trust as well as Human Rights Watch, called on the EU to speak out against homophobic bills pending in Ukraine’s parliament and to condemn attacks against LGBT activists. The summit meeting will be held in Brussels on February 25, 2013.
“These homophobic bills are unacceptable for a country that aspires to deeper relations with the European Union,” said Anna Kirey, Finberg fellow at Human Rights Watch. “The EU should state clearly at the summit that discrimination against LGBT people has no place in the EU neighborhood.”
The two “homosexual propaganda” bills are scheduled to be discussed by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, during its current session. The bills would, among other things, ban the production, publication, or distribution of materials “promoting” homosexuality. Violators would face fines and up to five years in prison.
The groups urged the EU to call on the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanykovych, to reject the two bills if the parliament adopts them.
A December 2012 resolution adopted by the European Parliament said the bills, if passed, would violate fundamental human rights – including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly – and are deeply discriminatory toward LGBT people in Ukraine. The bills would create an unacceptable environment of state-promoted discrimination against LGBT people, including those under 18, the groups said. The bills would also endanger the ability of human rights defenders to protect the rights of LGBT people.
In recent months LGBT activists in Ukraine who held public events supporting LGBT rights were attacked by neo-Nazi and nationalist groups. Svoboda, a political party that holds 12 percent of seats in parliament, publicly supported the December 2012 attacks. Kiev Pride organizers have been attacked on a number of occasions including during 2012 and 2013.
“Homophobic violence has been on the rise in Ukraine following the introduction of these bills,” Kirey said. “The EU should make clear it expects the Ukrainian government to ensure a thorough investigation of all attacks against LGBT activists and to hold accountable those responsible for them.”
The groups called on the EU to urge the Ukrainian government to:
- Speak out against the homophobic laws pending before parliament, making clear that they breachUkraine’s international obligations and the fundamental values to which Ukraine is expected to adhere;
- Ensure effective investigations into acts and threats of violence against members of the LGBT community and hold accountable those responsible for such actions;
- Ensure adequate protection for organizers of LGBT-related events and their participants; and
- Condemn, at the highest levels, rhetoric likely to incite discrimination, violence, or hostility against LGBT people and make clear such expressions have no place in Ukrainian society.