Ukraine Bill Proposes Prison for Positive Gay Depictions
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — If a group of Ukrainian lawmakers succeeds in its mission, television shows and movies like “Brokeback Mountain” that sympathetically portray gay men and lesbians 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 the “propaganda of homosexuality,” which the measure defines as positive depictions of gays in public.
It has prompted outrage from rights organizations in Ukraine and beyond that condemn the bill as a throwback to Soviet times, when homosexuality was a criminal offense. They also warn that the bill could lead to an increase in H.I.V. infections in Ukraine by driving gay people underground.
Although homosexuality was decriminalized in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, and Russia after the fall of communism, animosity toward gay people remains high in both countries. St. Petersburg, which is Russia’s second-largest city, passed a law this year mandating fines of up to $33,000 for “promoting” homosexuality among minors. A gay pride parade in Georgia, another former Soviet republic, ended in a scuffle with opponents in March.
The Ukrainian bill follows a decision in May to cancel the country’s first gay pride parade because organizers feared violence. Two Ukrainian gay rights activists have also been brutally attacked in recent months.
The hostility toward gay people raises wider questions about tolerance in Ukraine as it strives to join the European Union.
Pavlo Ungurian, one of the six lawmakers from various parties who wrote the antigay bill, told reporters on Monday that growing acceptance of gay rights in the West was “not evolution, but degradation.”
No date has been set for a vote on the bill, but Ruslan Kukharchuk, who heads the group Love Against Homosexuality, said he hoped it would be considered before a parliamentary election in October. It is unclear how much support the legislation enjoys.
President Viktor Yanukovych has not spoken about the initiative, but the fact that his parliamentary representative, Yuri Meroshnichenko, supports the bill is an indication that Mr. Yanukovych backs it as well. Anastasia Zhivkova, a gay rights activist, called the bill “a throwback to the Middle Ages,” and the United Nations Development Program said in a statement that the legislation amounted to “state-supported discrimination.”
“A great part of our life remains in the shadows,” Ms. Zhivkova said. “All the time you balance between being an outcast or a criminal.”