Ukraine vote on anti-gay bill sparks outrage

  • by Heather Cassell
  • Wednesday October 3, 2012
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Outrage against Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, echoed around the world as news spread about the swift overnight passage of the draft "gay gag" law on October 2.

Members of parliament voted 289 (out of 450) in support of bill 8711, which would prohibit free speech and publication of information about homosexuality. Individuals going against the ban could face up to five years in prison for spreading "homosexual propaganda," according to media reports.

An estimated 60 deputies were absent during the vote, according to Gay Star News.

This was the first of two readings in parliament. A second vote is tentatively scheduled for October 16, reported the news outlet.

An estimated 20 community activists representing several organizations protested outside of parliament, urging members to vote against the bill. Police protected the small group of protesters.

LGBT activists are hoping that the bill will be stopped by Volodymyr Lytvyn, chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament, just as a similar bill was in July after global anger descended upon Ukraine. Lytvyn halted the legislation to ensure that it complied with "all human rights freedoms," according to

The group launched a campaign ( to stop the gay gag bill, which is similar to Russian bills that have been passed, most recently earlier this year in St. Petersburg.

It is uncertain if President Viktor Yanukovych will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk. He has refused to respond to questions about the bill, according to media reports.

International rights leaders pointed out that the second vote is planned shortly before parliamentary elections on October 28.

"I expected more from my Ukrainian colleagues, but in pre-election times, it is easy to score cheap points by witch-hunting the LGBT community. This is the 21st century, and diversity exists in all our societies," said Ulrike Lunacek, member of the European Parliament and the co-president of the LGBT Intergroup, in an October 3 news release.

Lunacek called the proposed law "backward-looking," expressing that Ukraine is on a "collision course with the rest of Europe."

Others also spoke against the bill.

"If voted into law, it would lead to the further marginalization of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community in the country and would limit the work of human rights defenders," said Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, in an October 3 news release.

Passage of the proposed law would also potentially restrict LGBT Ukrainians' movement across borders, said Uri Rosenthal, minister of the Netherlands Foreign Affairs in a statement. She would put Ukraine's visa-free travel agreement with the European Union on hold indefinitely.

In spite of the implications of the proposed law, Ukrainian public opinion supports passage of the bill.

According to recent polls and studies, homophobic attitudes among Ukrainians and government officials have risen within the past decade, particularly within the past five years.

Homosexuality was decriminalized after Ukraine gained its independence from Russia in 1991, making it the first among the former Soviet republics, but community and government attitudes toward LGBT individuals have barely changed, according to studies.


Malawi won't repeal criminalization of homosexuality

President Joyce Banda said that Malawi isn't ready to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality after addressing the U.N. General Assembly, according to media reports on September 28.

The country's second female head of state and a well-known reformer backed down from her pledge after taking office to overturn anti-gay legislation.

Banda assumed the presidency after her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika died while in office. Following her ascension to the presidency in April the 62-year-old leader expressed hope that the country's parliament would repeal the nation's indecency and unnatural acts laws, reported the Associated Press.

"Anyone who has listened to the debate in Malawi realizes that Malawians are not ready to deal with that right now. I as a leader have no right to influence how people feel," she told reporters after her address.

She expressed concern about inciting violence if her administration presses too "fast for reform," she said.

In 2010, Malawi received condemnation after two men were arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison for celebrating their marriage. Both men were later pardoned, but Mutharika stated publicly that they had "committed a crime against our culture."


Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell, or [email protected].