EU URGED TO ADDRESS HOMOPHOBIA IN UKRAINE

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Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada

A host of human rights groups have called on the European Union to use an upcoming EU-Ukraine summit to urge the Ukrainian government to end abuses against LGBT people.

The groups, consisting of Human Rights Watch, Equal Rights Trust and 22 Ukrainian NGOs, said that EU officials should speak out against two homophobic bills pending in Ukraine’s parliament and should condemn attacks against LGBT activists.

“These homophobic bills are unacceptable for a country that aspires to deeper relations with the European Union,” said Anna Kirey, from Human Rights Watch.

“The EU should state clearly at the summit that discrimination against LGBT people has no place in the EU neighbourhood.”

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 Ukrainian President Viktor Yanykovych to reject the bills if the parliament adopts them.

The bills would create “an unacceptable environment of state-promoted discrimination against LGBT people, including those under 18,” the groups said.

They added that the bills would also limit 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 organisers have also 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.”

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