Annual Review 2013
This year was characterised by a series of negative developments. Legislative proposals to ban the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ and thus criminalising any positive depiction of same-sex relationships continued to make progress through the parliamentary process. If adopted, these laws have the potential to dramatically restrict the freedom of speech, mass media and potentially criminalise the work of LGBTI human rights defenders. Moreover, the adopted Law on Prevention and Combatting Discrimination does not include the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The first-ever Pride March was cancelled by the organisers because of threats of violence. Numerous violent physical attacks on LGBT activists have been reported; in some instances, the police failed to provide protection.
Bias motivated speech
- In April and May, protests against the planned Pride Parade event were held in Kiev. The protesters held placards which amongst other slogans stated “No to Sodomite Sin!” and “Homosexuality = AIDS.”
- In May, Svoboda All-Ukrainian Union, a nationalist party, referred to LGBTI people as sexual perverts and stated that “The aim of this event [Pride Parade] was to undermine the traditional moral values through a show of aggression towards the majority of the Ukrainian population who do not share the perverts’ way of life and it being imposed on others”.
Bias motivated violence
- In May, approximately 500 nationalists and anti-LGBTI activists arrived at the Kiev Pride Parade’s meeting point in downtown Kiev shouting threats. After two of the organisers announced the Parade cancellation to the public (during an improvised press briefing), they were attacked with pepper spray by a group of young men in masks. The attackers shouted “Out of Ukraine” and similar slogans and then ran away. Several minutes later the attackers reappeared, kicked one of the Pride organisers and jumped on his back while he was lying on the ground, and also beat up the other organiser. Amnesty International accused the Kiev police of connivance in the event despite its presence in large numbers. Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also voiced her concern over the violence during the Kiev Pride. The attackers were not caught and their identities are not known.
- In June, an LGBTI activist, another organiser of the Pride, was attacked on his way home from the subway station. The assailant kept asking the victim if he was gay and kicked him in the head. He ran away when a passer-by approached. The victim was left with a broken jaw and other serious injuries. The case was not investigated by the police.
- In July, a protest in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs against the adoption of the Law 8711 prohibiting the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in Ukraine was attacked by a group of young men wearing Svoboda Party t-shirts. The men tore the activists’ posters and shouted insults in the presence of a special police squad that did nothing to stop the violence.
- In December, LGBT and human rights organisations held a peaceful public action on International Human Rights Day. During the action the participants were assaulted and provoked by several militant adherents of the Svoboda party who sprayed tear gas on participants and tried to tear away their banners. Later Svoboda openly claimed responsibility for this assault, on its website, even specifying the names of the ‘hero patriots’. Although there was an adequate number of police officers at the event, the police failed to protect participants from homophobic assault and eventually arrested two attackers and six victims of aggression for “disorderly conduct”. After the peaceful demonstration on 8 December the police prevented the participants from leaving the site of the event all together saying that “no demonstrations on the street are allowed”. The participants were forced to leave in small groups and were attacked and beaten on the street by nationalists.
- In total, ILGA-Europe collected information on 13 hate crimes perpetrated throughout the year. These crimes included other cases of extreme physical violence against LGBTI individuals, such as beatings with robberies and other assaults. This information was collected as part of documentation activities in preparation of the OSCE/ ODIHR’s annual hate crime report, to be published in November 2013.
- The Draft Law 8711 prohibiting the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ that was introduced in parliament the previous year would criminalise any positive depiction, in public, of same-sex relations. In May, the Committee of Freedom of Speech and Information had recommended the adoption of the bill. The initial vote on the bill scheduled for July was postponed and in October the Ukrainian Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to support the bill. The second reading of the bill was postponed due to the elections at the end of the year. Various human rights organisations, official representatives of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the UN and the OSCE, the Ukrainian Ombudsperson and the official representative of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry as well as several politicians and public figures condemned the bill. If passed at the second reading and signed by the President, the Bill will amend existing laws on ‘the protection of morals’, media and publishing, as well as the Criminal Code making any public mentioning of homosexuality a criminal offence. This would effectively limit the freedom of speech of mass media and criminalise LGBT human rights work in Ukraine.
- In reaction to the adoption of Draft Law 8711 prohibiting ‘promotion of homosexuality’ at its first reading, the European Commission stated that Ukraine’s proposed anti-gay law would jeopardise prospects of visa liberalisation with the European Union. On behalf of the Commission, Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated that “such legislative initiative stands in contradiction to the requirements of the relevant benchmarks of the [EU-Ukraine Visa Liberalisation] Action Plan”.
- Following a technical procedure after the parliamentary elections Draft Law 8711 was re-registered as Draft Law 0945 without any change to the content of the bill.
Equality and non-discrimination
- In March, the parliament decided to remove the ban on offering assisted inseminations and IVF treatments to single women. This has not yet come into effect. At the same time it was decided to investigate the possibility of legally recognised surrogacy in Sweden. In September, The Law on Prevention and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine was adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament on the basis of the May draft № 10 468 submitted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. The law came into effect from 4 October, after being signed by the President of Ukraine. However, the adopted version of the law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as grounds protected from discrimination, despite calls by civil society organisations for their inclusion in the draft law.
- In summer, Ukraine co-hosted the EURO 2012 Football Championship. The human rights record of the country was discussed prior to and during the event, with some countries threatening to boycott the games if Ukraine did not improve its performance on human rights issues. However, in the end all countries participated in the tournament.
Freedom of assembly
- Kiev Pride Parade, planned to be held in downtown Kiev, was cancelled by the organisers right before it was scheduled to start, due to concerns over the participants’ safety.
- In December, the District Administrative Court allowed Kiev City authorities to prohibit action dedicated to the International Human Rights Day, which was planned for 8 December at the Independence Square, reasoning that the action was prohibited “to ensure law and order, prevention of crime, protection of health, rights and freedoms of Kyiv residents and guests”. The Court considered that peaceful protest organisers should ask permission from the police and city authorities. Despite the Court decision the organisers managed to hold the demonstration dedicated to International Human Rights Day and against Draft Law 8711 which aims to ban the so-called ‘propaganda of homosexuality’. During the event there were clashes between the protesters and their opponents. Six participants of the demonstration and, according to different sources, two or three opponents were detained by the police and released the following day. Afterwards the District Court of Kyiv declared the event illegal and placed administrative responsibility on the head of NGO Insight. The Court found that she had not informed the City authorities about the public action and that it was illegal to organise such a peaceful assembly.
Freedom of expression
- In May, a photo exhibition A room of my own, depicting the everyday life of LGBTI families, was attacked by two men at the Visual Culture Research Centre in Kiev. The men damaged 26 photographs with forks, knocking some of them onto the floor. Gallery security was unable to catch the men and the case was handed over to police for investigation.
- In August, the National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality listed a number of TV cartoon shows calling for them to be banned on the basis that they posed a threat to children. Some of the shows in question included Family Guy, Futurama, Teletubbies and Spongebob Squarepants, with the reason provided for their proposed ban being that they are ‘gay’. The Commission concluded that the programmes were “aimed at the destruction of the family, and the promotion of drugs and other vices” and that they are a “large-scale experiment on Ukrainian children to create criminals and perverts.”
- In October, in a letter sent to the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Lytvyn, the Secretary General expressed deep concern over a bill which proposes to ban the so-called “promotion” of homosexuality in Ukraine.
- In October, PACE delegates expressed concern over the vote by the Ukrainian Parliament to support this law. 36 delegates supported a Written Declaration calling for the Ukrainian Parliament to reject the legislation at its second reading.