Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Opinion

Dutch voters could derail gay rights in Ukraine

  • Activists outside Ukraine parliament during vote on anti-discrimination bill in October 2015 (Photo: Auco Fulcrum)

If you follow the situation of LGBT people in Ukraine, you’d know that it, like many other former Soviet countries, cannot be called friendly to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. To put it mildly.

After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine was one of the first states to abolish criminal penalties for “sodomy”. But LGBT rights are still a taboo subject in public discourse.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Globa (centre, with green sign): 'What will happen to me and my friends?' (Photo: Auco Fulcrum)

Politicians use it for provocation rather than for the sake of social dialogue.

Just three years ago, parliament considered a Russia-type law to ban “promotion of homosexuality”.

The former regime of Viktor Yanukovych and Mykola Azarov, in its last year in power, fully espoused the Kremlin’s homophobia. They falsely claimed, for instance, that the EU was going to force Ukraine to legalise gay weddings.

Ukrainian somersault

So, what’s changed for LGBT in Ukraine after it signed the EU association agreement?

Social mores haven’t changed. But there is a change, both in political rhetoric and in concrete terms.

The EU agreement has a number of anti-discrimination provisions. Progress in this difficult area is a litmus test on whether Ukraine really shares European values.

Last November, MPs passed a law which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at work.

It wasn’t easy. The Verkhovna Rada had to vote on it six times before it got through. Passionate debate spilled beyond the walls of the parliament on to the street.

The parliament speaker Volodymyr Groysman also made a brief hate-speech before the final vote. “God forbid this to happen, we’ll never support it,” he said on the issue of gay marriage.

The government, also in November, adopted an action plan as part of its national strategy on human rights.

It followed painful debates. But the result is notable. The plan includes a section on LGBT rights. It pledges to put forward a bill on civil partnerships by December 2016. It also pledges to introduce new penalties for homophobic crimes in the penal code.

Early this year, Ukraine also created a new police unit to investigate hate crimes, including anti-LGBT crimes.

We’ve come a long way in those three years: from trying to ban “homosexual propaganda” to ambitious plans for protecting the property rights of same-sex couples.

There’s a Ukrainian proverb which says: “The eyes are afraid, but the hands act.”

I don’t believe the politicians really care about minorities. But they’ve realised that they can’t throw LGBT rights off the EU integration train.

Dutch referendum

In this context, the Dutch referendum on the EU association pact is a sad development.

The Netherlands is the only EU country that has not fully ratified the agreement. Opinion polls indicate Dutch people will vote against it on 6 April.

It’s a non-binding referendum. But a big No could cause a real crisis in EU-Ukraine relations.

Part of the referendum debate is fear that an unreformed Ukraine will be a burden on Europe. But this argument turns reality upside down.

The association pact is a blueprint for reform and it’s already producing tangible results.

It obliges Ukraine to implement EU economic, political, and social norms without obliging the EU to do anything on Ukraine’s EU membership.

If the Netherlands stops ratification, the EU will be faced with a stagnant Ukraine which has burned its bridges with Russia and which has nowhere to go.

What will happen to my 42 million fellow Ukrainians? What will happen to me and my friends in Ukraine’s LGBT community? We can only guess.

Bogdan Globa is director of the All-Ukrainian Charitable Organisation Fulcrum, a Kiev-based NGO

Interview

Ukraine resignation is 'cold shower' for elite

Lithuania’s FM has said the surprise resignation of Ukraine’s Lithuanian economy minister is a “cold shower” for Kiev’s political elite, with corruption "playing into the hands" of Russia.

EU sanctions on former Ukraine regime unravel

Combined investigative capacities of 28 EU states and 18,000 Ukrainian officials, over two years, failed to build a case that former Ukraine regime stole money.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us