LGBT rights in Ukraine

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LGBT rights in Ukraine
Location of  LGBT rights in Ukraine  (green)in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]
Location of  LGBT rights in Ukraine  (green)

in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1991[1]
Gender identity/expression Sex reassignment surgery is allowed
Military service Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections in employment (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
No recognition of same-sex relationships.
Restrictions:
Same-sex marriage constitutionally banned.
Adoption Single people who are citizens of Ukraine are allowed to adopt

Lesbian, gay, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Ukraine may experience different social attitudes and public policies than heterosexual persons or persons who have a more conventional gender identity. Noncommercial, same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults in private is legal in Ukraine, but prevailing social attitudes are often described as being intolerant of LGBT people and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for any of the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. In a 2010 European study, 28% of Ukrainians polled believed that LGBT individuals should live freely and however they like.[2]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

As part of the Soviet Union, the Criminal Code banned same-sex sexuality. In 1991, the law was revised so as to better protect the right to privacy. Today, the law only concerns itself with same-sex sexuality activity when it involves prostitution, persons under the legal age of consent or non-voluntary behavior or public conduct that is deemed to be in violation of public decency standards. The age of consent is 16, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.[3]

Transgenderism was generally associated with homosexuality and thus prohibited. In 1992, the national Government revised its laws regarding gender identity to allow for, under medical approval, gender reassignment surgery and new personal identification.[4][5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Article 51 of the Constitution specifically defines marriage as a voluntary union between a man and a woman.[6][7][8] No legal recognition exists for same-sex marriage, nor is there any sort of more limited recognition for same-sex couples.

On 23 November 2015, the Government approved an action plan to implement the National Strategy on human rights in the period up to 2020, which include the promise to draft a bill creating registered civil partnerships for opposite-sex and same-sex couples by 2017, among others.[9][10][11]

Discrimination protections and hate crime laws[edit]

After having failed to gain enough votes on 5 and 9 November 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament approved an anti-discrimination law banning sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination at work on 12 November 2015.[12][13] A similar law (that law would have barred employers from rejecting workers based on their sexual orientation) was indefinitely postponed on 14 May 2013.[14][15] The law passed on 12 November 2015 was an EU requirement for Ukraine to move forward in its application for visa-free travel to the Schengen Area.[12] Before the vote of this bill Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Groysman strongly spoke out against same-sex marriage.[12][nb 1]

There is a national hate crimes law that could be interpreted as including sexual orientation and gender identity, but that has not been decided by the courts.[16]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Sex reassignment surgery is legal in Ukraine,[17][18] except for people who have a child who is younger than 18 years old and married people.[19] People who wish to change their gender need permission from a special commission of the Ministry of Healthcare.[19] The applicant needs to spend 30 days in a psychiatric hospital (usually placed in the same wards with patients who are mentally ill) and needs to be diagnosed with "transsexuality".[19] New identity documents are only issued after the surgery is conducted.[19] Sex reassignment surgery is, however, permissible for those over the age of 25 years only.[20] Transsexuality is in Ukraine classified as a psychiatric disorder.[19]

In 2011, the Ukrainian Civil Code was amended and allowed for transgender persons who have undergone surgery to change their names to better reflect their gender identity.[4][21]

In 2014, seven people have had sex changes and five people received new documentation.[19]

In August 2016, a Ukrainian court ordered changes requested by two trans persons to their passports and all other documents without requiring them to undergo surgery.[22]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Single persons who are citizens of Ukraine regardless of sexual orientation are allowed to adopt, but same-sex couples are explicitly banned from adoption (Clause 211 of Family Code of Ukraine).[23][24] Additionally, the adopter must be at least 15 years older than the adopted child, or 18 years older if adopting an adult. The law also mentions that persons "whose interests conflict with the interests of the child" may not be adopters, but whether this provision has ever been applied against gay adopters is unknown.

Additional restrictions are placed on foreign adopters. Only couples married in a registered different-sex marriage are allowed to adopt children from Ukraine.[24][25]

However, lesbian couples are given more access to parenting than men, as IVF and assisted insemination treatments are legal.[4]

Military service[edit]

Military service for men is compulsory in Ukraine. According to law, homosexuality is not a reason for exemption from the army. However, many young gay men try to avoid call-up to military service as they are afraid to face unauthorized relations and other difficulties.[26] Additionally, women are also allowed to serve.

Blood donation[edit]

Gay and bi men are currently unable to donate blood in Ukraine.

In April 2016, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health announced that new regulations governing blood donation will be enacted sometime in 2016. These regulations will allow gay and bi men to donate blood.[27]

Society[edit]

"I knew one 19-year-old guy who accidentally left his laptop lying around his house and his parents saw messages he sent to his boyfriend. For over a year they didn't let him go out of the house to work or study, they just kept him inside for fear of shame. And that's a familiar story in Ukraine."

Gay and bisexual sexual orientations and transgender identity remain taboo subjects in Ukraine. Most Ukrainians affiliated with the Orthodox or Catholic Church tend to view homosexuality and non-traditional gender roles as signs of immorality.[29][30] Prior to the 25 May 2013 Kiev pride parade the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Filaret, stated that people supporting LGBT rights would be cursed and Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church denounced homosexuality as a sin tantamount to manslaughter.[31]

Beyond the traditional religious teachings, most Ukrainians grew up with little, if any, comprehensive, fact-based public education about human sexuality in general, let alone sexual orientation and gender identity. The lack of sex education promotes the view of homosexuals as a dangerous social group, as a source of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS.

During the Soviet era sexual relations different from the 'officially' recognized (heterosexual) were labeled as abnormal. Some remnants of the soviet mentality, which sees sexual topics as taboo and even denies their existence, exists even today.[32]

Today, there are frequent reports of harassment, even violence directed at LGBT people in Ukraine.[33] Many LGBT people in Ukraine report feeling the need to lie about their true sexual orientation or gender identity in order to avoid being a target for discrimination or violent harassment.[29]

Bias motivated crimes or hate crimes against people who are LGBT are frequently reported on in the international press, and while such violence is not legal in Ukraine, there is a perception by people living in Ukraine and globally that such violence is frequently tolerated by the government.[29][34][35][36] the Ukrainian police hardly ever detained attackers.[29][34]

The prevailing intolerance and threats of violence, pressure many LGBT people to remain in the closet, especially if they are public figures who feel that their career as a politician or a celebrity would end if people knew that they are part of the LGBT community.[37][nb 2]

While prevailing public attitudes are intolerant, the Ukrainian LGBT community has gradually become more visible and more organized politically since 1991. Much of this is still restricted to low-key events in urban cities such as Kiev, but the issue of LGBT rights in Ukraine has been publicly debated much more, largely as the result of the actions of right-wing nationalists and social conservatives to classify any positive depictions of LGBT people or LGBT rights as being pornographic.[38]

Once something in Ukraine is defined by the law to be "pornographic", the image, film, television show, song or webpage is much more restricted as to when it can exhibited, seen or heard in public.[38] While such restrictions on pornography are not unique to Ukraine, by having a discriminatory standard put into place as to what constitutes pornography, any support for LGBT-rights, even if not sexually explicit, can only publicly seen or expressly if the entire audience is of a minimum legal age.

One of the major movement in opposition to LGBT rights in Ukraine the "ex-gay" movement which believes that lesbian, gay or bisexual sexual orientations, or trans gender identities, can be "cured" through therapeutic or religious programs. The largest of these groups in Ukraine is Love Against Homosexuality, which has the public support of celebrities and members of parliament who believe that LGBT people are "sexual perverts" who need to be cured.[38]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have complained about an increase of attacks on them in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in Eastern Ukraine.[39][40] Many volunteers that took in refugees from territory controlled by the Donetsk People's Republic refused to host LGBT people.[40]

Freedom of expression and censorship[edit]

In 1999, the former President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, stated that there are more important issues than LGBT rights to discuss in parliament and that homosexuality is caused by a mental illness or the corrupting influence of foreign films.[26]

In 2007, the leader of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights called gay men "perverts" who must be stopped. Other MPs, namely Communist MP Leonid Grach, have listed homosexuality and lesbianism as evils the state must stop.[41]

A draft law that would make it illegal to talk about homosexuality in public and in the media and to import, distribution and broadcast of video, photo and audio products that "encourages homosexuality" (with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines for up to 5,000 Ukrainian hryvnia (616 United States dollar[42])) was passed in first reading in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) on 2 October 2012.[34] An estimated 20 community activists representing several organizations protested outside of the Verkhovna Rada building during the vote.[3] This law has since then yet to pass a second parliamentary reading. On 4 October 2012, a second vote was tentatively scheduled for 16 October.[3][29][43][44][34][45] This law was deemed homophobic by the LGBT community and human rights organisations and condemned by them, Amnesty International, the European Union and the United Nations.[34] The Venice Commission concluded in June 2013 that the bill was "incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and international human rights standards".[46] In January 2015, the bill was removed from the agenda.[47][48]

Living conditions[edit]

LGBT flag map of Ukraine.svg

In 1998, the first LGBT rights group was created. Our World is an LGBT community center and human rights advocacy organization. In 2008, Ukrainian LGBT rights organizations came together to create a coalition, Union of Gay Organizations of Ukraine.[49]

Pride parades and rallies[edit]

In September 2003, the first, albeit small, public pride parade was held in Kiev.[50]

In May 2008, Ukrainian LGBT groups were prevented from marking the International Day Against Homophobia after a last-minute intervention by authorities who told organisers that due to the likelihood of friction the programme of events would have to be cancelled. Roman Catholics, Evangelic Christians, Seventh-day Adventists, Eparchy of Christianity and Baptist and the Union of Independent Orthodox churches had asked local authorities to forbid any action by representatives of sexual minorities.[51]

A May 2012, a Kiev gay pride parade was canceled by its participants because they feared for their safety.[35][52] Two gay rights activists were beaten up and tear gassed by a group of youths after pridegoers were evacuated by police escort.[28][35][53]

On 23 May 2013, a Ukrainian court satisfied a petition by Kiev city authorities to ban the holding of any events, other than those envisaged by the program for the celebration of Kiev Day (in the central part of the city); in doing so it de facto banned the gay pride parade in Kiev that was planned for 25 May.[54] Which format[clarification needed] was then changed to "a private event outside the central part of Kyiv".[55] On this day on a narrow pathway near Pushkin Park and Shuliavska metro station,[56] about 50 people gathered and marched.[28][57] Among them at least 10 from the Munich (Germany), including Vice Mayor of Munich Hep Monatzeder, and some from Sweden.[56] They marched under the protection of 1500 policemen, 13 of the about 100 anti-gay (march) protesters were arrested and no physical[nb 3] violence occurred.[28][57][58] After one hour the protesters who took part in the parade were evacuated from the area.[28] In an attempt to avoid revenge attacks they then changed their clothes and switched modes of transport multiple times.[28]

A procession organised by gay rights activists took place in central Kiev on 11 January 2014; admist the Euromaidan-protests.[40]

The Kiev gay pride parade was again cancelled on 5 July 2014 after the police failed to guarantee its protection.[59] It would have been a small, closed march several kilometers outside Kiev.[40][60] On 7 July 2014 Mayor of Kiev Vitali Klitschko had asked to cancel the pride "I think that currently, when battle actions take place and many people die, holding entertainment events does not match the situation existing. And I am urging all these people not to do this. I think that this will be wrong amid these circumstances".[60] The "battle actions" Klitschko referd to was the post-ceasefire government offensive of the War in Donbass.[61]

On 6 June 2015, Ukraine's second pride parade was held.[62] The march was finished in less than half an hour.[63] The number of police protection far outnumbered the pride participants.[63] The venue for the march was only disclosed to the march's participants that had registered on its website.[52] During the march five policemen were injured in scuffles after unidentified people had attacked the rally with smoke bombs and stones.[62] One police officer was admitted to intensive care.[64] 25 anti-gay activists were arrested.[62][65] Members of Parliament Svitlana Zalishchuk and Serhiy Leshchenko attended the march along with the Swedish ambassador to Ukraine, Andreas von Beckerath, and other Western diplomats.[66] The organizers urged the pride participants to disperse in small groups and not to use the Kiev Metro.[63] On 4 June 2015 Kiev Mayor Klitschko had again asked to cancel the pride citing "danger of provocations".[67] On the other hand, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated on 5 June 2015 that there was no reason to prevent the march.[68]

On 12 June 2016, Ukraine's third pride parade, dubbed the Equality March, was held in Kiev without incidents.[69] The march of 1,500 people lasted about half an hour and was guarded by more than 5,500 police officers and 1,200 members of the National Guard.[69] 57 people were detained for aggressive behavior.[69]

On 13 August 2016, a LGBT Equality Marsh was held in Odessa.[70] The march of 50 people lasted about half an hour and was guarded by more than 700 police officers.[70] Twenty men, who were trying to break through to the event, were detained.[70]

Attacks on the LGBT community[edit]

An Amnesty International expert on Ukraine has stated that "People have been beaten and in one case murdered because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of these crimes have not been properly investigated and have gone unpunished."[71]

On 22 June 2012, a man approached the LGBT activist Taras Karasiichuk saying, "Are you a fag?" and then kicked him in the head and jaw. Human Rights Watch said authorities should treat the incident as a hate crime.[72]

On 6 July 2014, a group of 15-20 neo-Nazis mounted an attack against the gay club "Pomada" (Lipstick) in Kiev. The attackers wore camouflage and balaclava (ski masks) and threw a smoke grenade and firecrackers.[73]

On 29 October 2014, Kiev's oldest movie theater, Zhovten, caught fire when a smoke grenade was thrown into it during the screening of the French film Les Nuits d'été, which was shown as part of an LGBT program at the Molodist (youth) film festival. None of the roughly hundred people attending were injured.[74][75][76] Police arrested two suspects, one of whom said that the intent was not to burn the building down, but to make a protest against films with a LGBT theme.[77]

Oleksandr Zinchenko, a representative of the human rights of the LGBT group Our World stated on 3 June 2015 that 40 hate crimes had been committed against LGBT people in 2014 and that about 10 such crimes had already happened in 2015.[78]

Public opinion[edit]

In a 2007 country-wide survey by the Institute of Sociology, 16.7% disagreed strongly and 17.6% disagreed with the following statement: Gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own life as they wish. Only 30.2% agreed strongly and agreed with the statement. That was the lowest rating of agreed strongly and agreed with the statement of 24 countries investigated.[79]

In a December 2007 survey by Angus Reid Global Monitor, 81.3% of Ukrainians polled said that homosexual relations were "never acceptable", 13% answered "sometimes acceptable" and 5.7% "acceptable".[80] Of all the behaviors listed, homosexuality was viewed as the third worst after shoplifting and drunk driving. Notably, more people view this as never acceptable than viewing adultery (61.5% never, 29.3% sometimes), traffic rule violation (70.2% never, 25.6% sometimes), pollution (73.3% never, 22.4% sometimes), tax evasion (48.5% never, 37.5% sometimes), deception for the sake of profit (48.3% never, 41.6% sometimes), as well as a list of other things including abortion, premarital sex, complaining to authorities about a friend who has stolen something, etc.[80]

In another Angus Reid Global Monitor survey, this one in June 2007, on a long list of possible social reforms in the country, legalization of same-sex marriage only received 4.7% of the vote, the lowest by far (the next lowest being light drugs,[81] at 7.1%).[81]

A December 2010 Gorshenin Institute poll stated that the "Ukrainian attitude to sexual minorities" was "Entirely negative" for 57.5%, "Rather negative" for 14.5%, "Rather positive" for 10% and "Quite positive" for 3%.[53]

A May 2013 poll by GfK Ukraine found that 4.6% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage and 16% supported other forms of recognition, while 79.4% were opposed to any form of recognition.[82]

A summer 2015 survey by the British Council revealed that one in five of Ukrainian youth[nb 4] would be uncomfortable with having lesbian and gay people as friends.[83]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1991)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1991)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2015)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage(s) No The Constitution specifically defines marriage as a voluntary union between a man and a woman.
Recognition of same-sex couples No (Proposed)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGB people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 1992)
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No Illegal for all couples regardless of sexual orientation.
MSMs allowed to donate blood No (Pending)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Extracts from Groysman speech to parliament are: "Dear deputies: Seven votes stand between us and a visa-free regime. You and we stand for family values, I hear some fake information which says that there may be same-sex marriages in Ukraine. God forbid, this will ever happen. We will never support this".[12] In favor of the bill Groysman stated "the individual and his rights are at the foundation of our society."[12]
  2. ^ Former Minister of Justice Serhiy Holovaty has never denied being a homosexual.[37]
  3. ^ A few religious anti-gay protesters, disguised as press, attempted to rip banners and placards of the paraders.[28]
  4. ^ The survey was not held in Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.[83]

References[edit]

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  22. ^ Good news from Malaysia, Namibia, Ukraine Erasing 76 Crimes
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  36. ^ Violence in Ukraine, Bay Area Reporter (13 December 2012)
  37. ^ a b Fearing scandal for being different, politicians keep themselves, nation in closet, Kyiv Post (14 October 2010)
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  48. ^ Draft law of ex-MP Kolesnichenko banning "gay propaganda" was removed from consideration in Verkhovna Rada
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  55. ^ Equality March to be held as a private event, not in central Kyiv, say organizers, Interfax-Ukraine (24 May 2013)
  56. ^ a b Despite interruptions, Kyiv holds first ever gay pride, Kyiv Post (25 May 2013)
  57. ^ a b Gay-Pride Activists Briefly March In Kyiv, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (25 May 2013)
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  63. ^ a b c In Kiev "Flight of equality" radicals wounded policeman. There is detained, Ukrayinska Pravda (6 June 2015)
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  68. ^ (Ukrainian) The President will not go to the gay parade, but is not against it, Ukrayinska Pravda (5 June 2015)
  69. ^ a b c LGBT Pride march in Kyiv held without violence, Kyiv Post (12 June 2016)
    Ukrainians March for LGBT Equality in Peace, NBC News (12 June 2016)
  70. ^ a b c (Russian) US Ambassador to Ukraine in Odessa welcomed the gay parade, RIA Novosti (13 August 2016)
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  72. ^ "Ukraine: Investigate Brutal Attack on Gay Activist", Human Rights Watch, 26 June 2012 
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  83. ^ a b Nearly half of young Ukrainians consider emigration, Kyiv Post (2 July 2015)

External links[edit]