Monday, October 8, 2012

Ukraine Draft Law on Referring to Homosexuality Violates Ukraine's International Law Obligations

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 last week, urging the country’s authorities to strengthen anti-discrimination laws  for all citizens.

Last Tuesday, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted, at first reading, a draft law, that introduces  anti-homosexuality amendments into four existing laws and 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).  Click here to see the OCHCR press briefing note.

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.”

(mew) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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