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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

In Ukraine, society becoming more homophobic

Members of Nash Mir on Independence Square in Kiev
By A. Zinchenkov, A. Kravchuk of Nash Mir, Kiev

Ukrainian society becomes more homophobic. Whereas in 2002 33.8% and in 2007 46.7% of Ukrainians considered that homosexuals do not have rights equal to other citizens' rights (public opinion polls (PDF) carried out by the TNS Ukraine sociological service by request of Nash Mir), throughout 2010 the situation substantially worsened.

The indicative survey of the Socis sociological center conducted in September, 2010, showed that about 65% of Kiev residents consider homosexuality as a perversion or mental disease. Likewise were the findings of ‘A family in Odessa students’ eyes’ survey of the Gorshenin Institute, March, 2010, which established that 74.7% of the students polled consider homosexual relations inadmissible. Another survey of the Gorshenin Institute, December, 2010, (‘Morals in Ukraine’ telephone poll) showed that 72% of Ukrainians have negative attitude towards sexual minorities.

At the 45th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which took place in Geneva, January, 2010, Ukraine presented a report on implementation of the respective UN convention.

On January 18 were heard the shadow reports of Ukrainian public organizations on human rights observance towards women in the country. Among others, a representative of Kherson LGBT organization For Equal Rights informed those concerned that the national legislation makes no provision for sexual orientation discrimination prohibition, although homosexual women suffered numerous cases of their rights and freedoms being violated. Because of the above mentioned lack of provision, crimes against the women noted cannot be qualified as hate crimes.

On January 21, after the official report of the Ukrainian delegation, some members of the Committee asked nine questions concerning, in this way or another, observance of LBT women’s rights in Ukraine. Not one question received an answer that was duly noted by the Committee.

On February 18 the Committee issued the Final Observation for the country. Ukraine has to implement the Committee's recommendations within four years. The implementation markedly requires the inclusion of LBT women identified as a result of the For Equal Rights advocacy work. For the first time Ukraine did meet demands to eliminate discrimination against women on the ground of their sexuality.

On March 31, 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe unanimously (meaning with Ukraine’s support) adopted the Recommendation on combating sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. The document recommends to member states of the Council of Europe (CE) a number of measures for improvement of human rights legislation and policies towards LGBT – in such areas as labor relations, freedom of associations and peaceful meetings, private and family life, education, health protection, sports, hate crimes and so on.

Ukraine’s support for this document means that our state for the first time on the international level admitted that sexual orientation cannot be a ground for discrimination. How demonstrably sincere is the attitude of Ukraine regarding this question will become clear in three years' time, when the Committee will examine implementation of the Recommendation by CE member countries.

The head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union A. Bushchenko believes:
‘It is especially important to put them [questions of overcoming inequality and prejudices towards LGBT citizens] before today’s authorities in Ukraine, because in my view the latest statements of high-ranking officials showed that the present authority does not understand the meaning of basic principles of the modern society’.

On April 10, 2010, once again Ukrainian LGBT organizations issued an appeal to the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and heads of the relevant parliamentary committees – for introducing changes into the first reading of the draft bill on Labor Code. At this time and in accordance with the Recommendations of the CE Committee of Ministers, LGBT organizations’ leaders proposed to legislators the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of non-discrimination grounds in labor issues. However, unlike previous times, they did not receive even a formal answer from representatives of the Ukrainian parliament.

On April 29, 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe(PACE), following the CE Committee of Ministers, adopted two more historic pan-European-community documents regarding sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Those are: Resolution 1728(2010)() and Recommendations 1915(2010). Both documents along with the Resolution of the Committee of Ministers are directed at ensuring civic equality for LGBT persons and measures against human rights violation and sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination as well as hate crimes towards LGBT persons in the CE member states.

Besides these documents, for the first time the issue was raised of settling problems of same-sex partnerships in the CE member states.

On June 10, 2010, Ukrainian Christian churches proclaimed another declaration ‘On negative attitude towards the sin of homosexualism, its promotion in society and attempts to legalize so-called same-sex marriages’. Taking into account the great influence Christian religion has in Ukraine, especially disturbing is the language of animosity towards homosexuals that saturates this document's text. For instance it reads:
‘The society has no right to turn a blind eye to promotion of homosexualism, taking it as supposedly the ‘private affair’ of those inclined to this sin. […] a society that shuts its eyes to this sin, approving it by that, from the secular point of view is doomed to die out through decreasing birth rate, and from the spiritual point of view will carry responsibility before God’. Also ‘we strongly object to regarding homosexual lifestyle and behavior as natural, […] reckoning homosexualism in the list of human rights, promoting it as a normal option of sexual life…’

On July 2, 2010, during her official visit in Ukraine the USA Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met with representatives of public organizations. Answering the question ‘What is the policy of USA towards rights of gays and lesbians and what message can be delivered to Ukrainian authorities on this issue?’ the high representative noted that the administration of President Obama works to put an end to oppression and discrimination of LGBT community both in the country and abroad. ‘I believe that we have to integrate all the people in society’ underscored the head of the USA State Department. It is well to remember in this regard that the State Department of the USA in its annual reports on observation of human rights in the world, in the section concerning Ukraine, repeatedly noted problems faced by LGBT people in our country.

In July, 2010, the Kharkiv Circuit Administrative Court upheld a suite of the Kharkiv City Council on banning peaceful meeting of sexual minorities. Though initiators of the demonstration remained unstated, there are quite interesting arguments pertinent to the ground on which the court banned peaceful meeting. The court stated that there is probability that in the specified time in this place there could be people present who ‘have an interest that will not agree with interests of the march participants’. That is, a right for peaceful meeting was judged to be in opposition to a pedestrian's right to walk freely in unrestricted perambulation ‘without making additional efforts to it’. Also the court took into account a reference of the State Traffic Police that this demonstration could complicate traffic conditions and even lead to human victims, though in the same situation the city authorities of Simferopol considered it possible to stop all the traffic for a homophobic march in October of 2010.

The Chief Sexopathologist of Ukraine, Professor Ihor Horpinchenko, states that homosexuality is not a disorder. His respective statement was made on behalf of the Ministry of Public Health and circulated by the Gay Forum of Ukraine. “We affirm that [...] sexual orientation proper must not be interpreted as a disorder and consider it incorrect to use the terms ‘incorrect orientation’ and ‘disorder’ towards homosexuality”, said professor Horpinchenko.

The Chief Sexologist-Andrologist of Crimea Andrey Lyubarsky holds to a similar opinion. ‘From the International Classification of Diseases, Andrey Lyubarsky informed us, homosexuality was expunged as a disorder of sexual behavior. That is, in our time this is not a disease needing medical treatment and correction. So the division of people into ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’, the sexologist believes, means not a very great mind. And a homophobic-aggressive attitude towards sex-minorities – just alerts physicians. “Usually it is a sign of hidden or obvious sexual disorder, sometimes relating to some homosexual experience, feeling of one’s own inferiority, unrealized fantasies”, the sexologist told. “All in all, who cries louder, really needs medical care”.

Familiar homophobic rhetoric was heard from another member of the Ukrainian parliament, disguised as usual as necessity to protect ‘traditional values’. This time it was a deputy head of the Party of Regions parliamentary group Vadim Kolesnichenko. In his interview given to Radio Liberty on September 3, 2010, whilst standing up for introduction of a special human rights system in Ukraine based upon the ‘teaching of Russian Orthodox Church towards human rights’, he said:
‘I believe that homosexual marriages are unacceptable for our culture, for our state, and I will always oppose it, though some European countries supported such decision. And I believe that the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian citizens will be against it’.

Echoing himself on October 13, 2010, in the interview given to Internet publication ‘’ this human rights advocate (as he calls himself) V. Kolesnichenko said:
‘An attempt to legalize same-sex marriages in Ukraine will be very debatable and difficult. [...] It strictly contradicts the spirit of our people. [...] I don’t think that in the near time the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] will consider laws for homosexualists. Because our society has to develop in another way, upon different spiritual principles’.

The election campaign for local governments in Ukraine as well as many other elections did not avoid ‘dirty’ political techniques. On October 7 there appeared on the Internet some police video footage wherein the then young common citizen and now member of parliament Oleh Lyashko tells about his homosexual liaison in every detail.

The Yulia Tymoshenko Block parliamentary group, of which he was a member, later expelled him under what was most probably a fictitious pretense. Thus even representatives of the Ukrainian establishment become hostages of the policy of concealment and homophobia which has been formed in Ukraine towards LGBT citizens – not without their active participation.

Consider one more instance from this election campaign. This time pressure of ‘black and pink’ PR was exerted on Zhitomir mayoral candidate Henadiy Zubenko by the political force ‘Front of Changes’ (led by A. Yatsenyuk). Purporting to be on behalf of some LGBT organization in the city, leaflets were pasted up to support this candidate. These leaflets undoubtedly influenced in a negative manner his run in the election campaign. Unfortunately, Mr. Zubenko's defenders, in trying to scrub him clean of ‘pink’ stains, for some reason considered it necessary to fling more mud solely at gays and lesbians – rather than at their political opponents who most probably contrived the leaflet ad.

The Kharkiv Governor M. Dobkin, a representative of the Party of Regions, must have utilized second sight when he told on 20.07.2010:
‘Black PR is an integral part of every public figure’s life. Whoever enters politics has to understand that any dirty technologies can be used against him right up to accusations of [...] homosexualism [...] Because some figures, and unfortunately there are lots of them, come to their heights this very way’.

On 28.09.2010 the Kiev Mayor L. Chernovetsky by his directive No. 768 ordered Kiev State Administration and a number of other services to assist in the carrying out of the festival ‘All together!’ organized by a public movement of the same name. During action from the stage in front of the capital city hall were heard some homophobic slogans fomenting hate towards gays, and calling upon the authorities for introduction of criminal liability for ‘promotion of homosexualism’. Examples of such slogans were:
‘Homosexualism = AIDS’, ‘Registration of perverts’ partnerships – the threat to national security of Ukraine’ etc..

Relations with law enforcement bodies

This year the LGBT human rights situation in Ukraine, compared with previous years, did not change substantially. As before, a large part (35 of 79) of the recorded cases of human rights violation and discrimination towards homosexuals took place in the sphere of relations with law enforcement bodies.

Ukrainian police (militsyia) on their part actively enabled infringements of such fundamental human rights as the right to freedom and personal immunity, the prohibition of tortures and inhuman treatment, the right to effective means of legal protection, the right to privacy, and the right to private property.

In April, 2010, Ihor B. was severely beaten by police officers right in the hall of the Central Police Department of Donetsk before the eyes of a score of witnesses – only for requesting policemen to observe the legal procedure of detention. Later on he was forced to abandon attempts to defend his rights because he and his mother were subjected to threats on the part of police officers. He was also made to sign a document attesting an absence of any complaints from him toward the police.

In January, 2010, Alexandr Z. was detained by police officers of Pervomaysky District Police Department of Chernovtsy solely for being in a gay cruising place. Apart from non-observance of legal procedure during his detention, the police also photographed and took fingerprints of Alexandr without any grounds.

In March, 2010, Mr. H., a resident of Nikolaev, was summoned to the police in connection with a murder of a gay man. After the official part of the interrogation during which it had been ascertained that H. did not know the murdered man, he was transferred to another room where four police officers started to insult and humiliate H. They also threatened him with the disclosure of his sexual orientation to his relatives. The police demanded from him that he give them contacts of all gays known to him. They illegally confiscated his mobile telephone and copied phone numbers present in it. He was released not promptly but only in several hours' time.

In May, 2010, the Kiev police answered a complaint of Ukrainian LGBT organizations about the assault by militants from the nationalist organization ‘S. Bandera Tryzub’ upon participants and guests of a homosexual collective poetry presentation which took place in Kiev in the beginning of October, 2009. It took eight months for the police ‘not to find a crime’ in the actions of the assailants (insulting, overturning the furniture, physically assaulting participants) and to refuse to bring a criminal case against them.

In October, 2010, a criminal trial was completed in Donetsk that convicted a policeman who beat a gay man. This fact is atypical for Ukraine not just because our judges are unused to convicting policemen but also because a gay man decided to come out against a police officer. This case is especially remarkable because the gay man’s lawyer added this to the suite: incrimination under Article 161 of the Criminal Code, which aggravates punishment for a crime of a discriminating character. This is the second case in Ukrainian legal practice in which suing homosexuals undertook to prove that infringement of their rights was of a discriminating character.

Hate crimes

Worldwide every year on the 20th of November the International Memorial Day of Transgendered Victims is observed. In 2010 the public organization ‘Insight’ timed a number of activities to this date.

Among them was a movie demonstration in the Center of Contemporary Art in Kiev Mohyla Academy. About ten men in masks tried to burst into the hall. Fortunately they could not gain entry because resisting ‘Insight’ activists stood at the entrance. Two Academy activists suffered from the aggressors’ violence. In addition, the aggressors tried to spray tear gas from several cans into the hall that led to some victims. When the aggressors understood that they could not break rapidly into the hall, they disappeared in withdrawal..

The police summoned from Podol District Police Department of Kiev gathered testimonies very reluctantly and refused to accept complaints from all the incident’s participants. Supposedly all the blame for the attack should be put on the ultra-rightist organization ‘National Union’; next day on its very Internet site appeared the information that the Academy hall attack was committed by ‘unknown patriots resembling activists of the National Union’.

On December 11, 2010, in the center of Kiev took place an ‘AntiYolka’ action organized by some left-wing and one LGBT organization. Mostly the action expressed protest against social policy of the current Ukrainian authorities; the only direct reference to LGBT matters was one slogan ‘LGBT rights – human rights’ and a rainbow flag. Initially the action had been planned for another site and with a more expressed anti-homophobic subject. But the Kiev branch of the neonazi party All-Ukrainian Association ‘Svoboda’ (Freedom) announced that it would carry out a counteraction in the same place at the same time. Despite the action being transferred and their slogans being shifted towards a general social protest against the authorities’ policy – after the event has been closed the group of unknown young men calling, themselves ‘Christian youth’ attacked, then withdrew, leaving the participants of the action.

During preparation materials were utilized from ‘Gay Forum of Ukraine’ press service and other sources.
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