Despite all efforts undertaken by local human rights activists and international communities to promote tolerance and principles of equality and respect, homophobic spirits have been spreading in Ukraine rather quickly lately. In the past 12 months, some members of Ukrainian parliament, Verkhovna Rada, have registered three draft laws against so-called “propaganda of homosexuality”. Unfortunately, the regrettable bill No 8711, which would enforce hefty fines and prison terms of up to five years for publication and distribution of any materials of positive and even neutral information concerning homosexuality in the media and elsewhere, was adopted in the first reading by 289 out of 350 MPs last week on 2nd October .
These disturbing developments in Ukraine, a member of Council of Europe and signatory to major international human rights declarations and conventions, are occurring prior to the country’s parliamentary elections due in late October and amidst preparation of IGLYO’s General Assembly due to take place in Ukraine’s city of Mykolayiv in December.
It is very clear that this bill is in breach of freedom of speech, assembly and expression under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the European Convention on Human Rights not mention Constitutions of Ukraine. It is also clear that such populist shift in Ukrainian politics demonstrates the country’s poor understanding of fundamental human rights and freedoms and their universality for all citizens, including lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and queer people.
To understand why IGLYO members agreed last year that the next General Assembly should take place in Ukraine, it would be helpful to explain the role and the strategic importance of the General Assembly in the life cycle of IGLYO as an umbrella for LGBTQ youth and student organisations.
First of all, General Assemblies or annual gatherings of our members are serving statutory purposes – modifying statutes, adopting activity reports and workplans for upcoming years, electing leadership and setting the strategic course of organisation. This is the only annual physical meeting to gather all our members and friends who constitute IGLYO as such.
Secondly, this event brings together LGBTQ youth from more than forty countries, representing different realities. This is a place where our members and friends get an opportunity to build networks, share and learn from each other, express solidarity and celebrate achievements.
Therefore, it was not by chance that last year members of IGLYO unanimously supported invitation form LiGA and agreed to meet in Ukraine in 2012 to show solidarity and support to their peers and friends in the country where LGBTQ people are not always accepted and visible. This decision was affirmed by the belief that it was time to unleash the chains of silence, ignorance and hostility that are still a burden for LGBTQ people in Ukraine, where possibility of being oneself requires a lot of courage and relentless fight.
We believe that it is absolutely necessary to adequately react to any downgrading that is happening to quality of lives of LGBTQ people in any country of the world. Despite all the possible consequences of the bill No 8711 should it be adopted in the second reading by Verkhovna Rada and signed into law by the president of Ukraine, IGLYO is convinced that the General Assembly of its member organisations should take place in Mykolayiv anyway.
However, we remain optimistic and very positive about the further progress of situation in Ukraine and believe that international pressure, as well as the brave and non-violent resistance of local LGBTQ activists, will make Ukrainian lawmakers think twice before they vote for the “gay gag law” and will eventually reject it as unconstitutional and anti-common sense legislation.
IGLYO and LiGA call on IGLYO members to attend the General Assembly in Mykolayiv and manifest their support and solidarity with LGBTQ youth and activists in this beautiful European country.