Saturday, October 06, 2012

Ukraine: Draft law banning homosexual references violates freedom of expression

The rainbow flag waves in the wind at San Francisco's Castro District. Credit: Benson Kua

UN - 5 October 2012 – A new draft law criminalizing any reference to homosexuality in the media or public domain violates Ukraine’s commitment to freedom of expression and information, the United Nations said today, urging the country’s authorities to strengthen anti-discrimination laws for all citizens.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted, at first reading, a draft law, which introduces anti-homosexuality amendments into four existing laws, as well as into Ukraine’s criminal code. If adopted in its current form, references to homosexuality in the media could result in fines or prison sentences of up to five years, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Addressing reporters in Geneva, an OHCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said the draft law “is clearly discriminatory and runs counter to Ukraine’s international commitments to ensure freedom of expression and information.”

He added, “It may also undermine the rights to health and equality before the law, and raises serious question marks over the country's adherence to fundamental human rights values, as contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”

The proposed law, Mr. Colville said, contradicts the recently adopted anti-discrimination law in the country, and added that to clear some of the contradictions Ukraine should strengthen its anti-discrimination law by making explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity as possible grounds of discrimination.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated it expects Parliament to take into account Ukraine’s international obligations to protect minority rights during the second reading of the draft law, which will take place later this month.

“We urge the Ukrainian authorities to take all necessary steps to strengthen individual human rights guarantees against discrimination, and note that the second reading of the draft law will provide an opportunity for the new parliament, which will be elected at the end of October, to rectify the situation,” Mr. Colville said.

He added that OHCHR, in close partnership with international and regional organizations as well as national institutions and civil society organizations, is ready to assist Ukraine to “promote an inclusive anti-discrimination agenda and legislation that will be protective of the rights of all without any distinction.”