Another battle has erupted between an eastern European state and broader European norms regarding homosexuality. Last Tuesday, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to outlaw the “promotion of homosexuality.” By the end of the week, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner warned that the legislation “runs counter toUkraine’s international commitments to ensure freedom of expression and information.”
Draft Law No. 8711, which is subject to approval by President Viktor Yahukovich, prohibits distributing materials and using the mass media for positive depictions of gays. (Text available in Ukrainian only. However, see the UN Development Program’s commentary on the law.)
The law, framed as a national security measure, is purportedly aimed at stopping the spread of HIV and stopping “certain media outlets” from “promoting a tolerant attitude toward things like sexual relations between people of the same sex.”
Although same-sex relations were decriminalized in 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union, public opinion in the country remains homophobic. A pride march was canceled in May of this year because of violent opposition protesters, and a recent poll found that 78% of the population holds negative views about gay people. Timing of this measure, then, may not be accidental: parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 28th.