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Ukraine activists, ambivalent allies seek ban on anti-LGBTI bias

Ukraine activists, ambivalent allies seek ban on anti-LGBTI bias

LGBTI rights activists have vowed to keep pushing for passage of a Ukrainian law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

They fell short this week in the Ukrainian parliament, although they amassed more votes than in the previous attempt.

Olena Shevchenko, chair of the LGBTI advocacy organization Insight, explains here what’s at stake and how LGBTI activists joined an uneasy coalition in favor of the proposal. Her statement has been lightly edited:

Kiev protesters seek passage of ban on anti-LGBTI discrimination. (Photo courtesy of Anastasia Vlasova via Kyiv Times)
Kiev protesters seek passage of ban on anti-LGBTI discrimination. (Photo courtesy of Anastasia Vlasova via Kyiv Times)


Action for adoption of “visa-free” laws

On Nov. 5, Ukrainian MPs failed to vote for some laws necessary for visa liberalization between Ukraine and European Union. Nov. 10 was almost the last opportunity for them to correct their mistakes and adopt all the 10 laws. However, these laws are important primarily not for Europe but for Ukraine itself.

Olena Shevchenko (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Insight leader Olena Shevchenko (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

In particular, there are laws aimed at strengthening the fight against corruption, as well as amendments to the Labour Code of Ukraine, which would prohibit discrimination at workplace on several grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

In order to pressure the deputies, concerned citizens who are not affiliated with any political parties and movements organized an action called “Don’t FU€K with us! 101010” (The numbers refer to 1o laws and 10 a.m. on Nov. 10.)

The active part of the LGBTQ community, including Insight NGO, decided to join this action, particularly focusing on anti-discrimination rules, as homosexual, bisexual and transgender people often have problems at workplace and find themselves in situations when they are dismissed or can’t get a job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  These rules would not be not “special rights” for LGBTQ, as sometimes is said, since in some cases they can also be applied to protect heterosexual and cisgender people.

“And this is not just sexual orientation. This is, for example, sex – of women who have not given birth yet. They are not hired because they can suddenly give birth. But this is their right, you know? People need to be hired regardless of their nationality, orientation, ethnicity, gender identity, gender, age,” said Olena Shevchenko, chair of the Insight NGO.

It should be noted that some of the action organizers, although declaring tolerance, were at the same time against open LGBTQ participation under rainbow flags. Such a position indicates that, unfortunately, the attitude to modern European values ​​in Ukraine is often selective, accompanied by latent homophobia and lack of understanding of human rights.

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However, despite the contradictions and even the direct prohibition of flags, LGBTQ activists didn’t fall back, but manifested themselves.

The action began in front of the Ukrainian Parliament at 10 a.m. Activists unfurled a large banner with the slogan “Stop Discrimination” in front of them. There was also general action symbolics, transgender and rainbow flags and umbrellas, posters with the slogans “All different – all equal,” “Come out of the closet,” “Human rights are for all” as well as the numbers of the bills to be voted on.

Despite the conflicts on the preparatory phase, there was no misunderstanding between participants during the action, as everybody came out for a common goal. The action attracted much interest from television and other media, so in addition to its direct purpose it has also helped to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ community. And, hopefully, showed to those who remain invisible  that it is possible to come out and fight for rights in Ukraine.

In the evening, when only the anti-discrimination bill with amendments to the Labour Code was left, it got only 207 votes. This is 90 more than at the first voting on Nov. 5, but still not enough.

Unfortunately, homophobia in Parliament once again gained a victory over Europe. So this is the reason to organize more actions and continue fighting.

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