Ukraine “Gay Gag Rule” Shelved: All Out
In a last minute move, the Ukrainian parliament cancelled Friday’s scheduled vote on legislation that would ban any Ukrainian citizen from speaking out favourably about gays or lesbians, All Out reports. Human rights defenders and many European officials condemned the proposed law “for its potentially chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression for millions of Ukrainians.”
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The move to shelve the bill today is seen as a critical victory for LGBT activists and observers, leaving only a short window in September for it to be reconsidered before the dissolution of the sitting Parliament, AllOut.org reported. The Ukraine’s Law 8711, known to outsiders as the “Gay Gag” bill, received magnified attention as it was being read in parliament while the country was co-hosting the Euro Cup soccer championship. The soccer championship drew attention to the rise in neo-Nazism and extreme hate-based politics in the former Soviet nation with ambitions for EU membership.
“More than 120,000 All Out members spoke out against this horrendous legislation and pushed it to the top of Europe’s diplomatic agenda… That call has been echoed by the European diplomatic community who played a critical role in blocking the progress of the gay gag law,” said Andre Banks, co-founder and executive director of AllOut.org. “Above all, this is a victory for our partners in Ukraine. Together we are sending a strong message to the other governments of Eastern Europe. Support for anti-gay laws embolden extremists at the expense of lucrative European ambitions.”
Yesterday, AllOut.org, a global movement to dramatically accelerate the move toward full equality for LGBT people all over the world, delivered its petition with 120,000 signers to Ukrainian authorities at the European Union and Council of Europe. Thousands of All Out members also made direct phone calls to their Foreign Office pushing for action against Law 8711. Key European governments, the European Parliament and Sir Elton John eventually denounced the law (number 8711), with the governments of Ireland and Argentina issuing statements as late as Thursday (July 4). Queer activists in the Ukraine received a lot of support from international organizations and individuals, such as ILGA-Europe, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, UNDP in Ukraine, Amnesty International, General Secretary of the Council of Europe, members of Europarliament, members of German party of Greens and others. The Europarliament issued a resolution condemning Ukrainian anti-gay bill on May 24. “However, unfortunately, this international pressure has its limits as these are rather recommendations and not demands,” one activist told 2B before the news of the bill being shelved was announced.
Law 8711 would make it illegal to ‘spread homosexuality’ by ‘holding meetings, parades, actions, demonstrations and mass events aiming at intentional distribution of any positive information about homosexuality’ and imposes penalties of fines and up to five years imprisonment. “The law is a grave attack on the freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly for all Ukrainians – gay and straight,” All Out decried. Fines and even time in prison would apply to a journalist who publishes a positive article about a gay person, a writer who features a lesbian character on TV or a teacher who publicly supports human rights for gay people in the classroom.
Human rights activists in Ukraine have this week noted that “The authorities are increasingly worried about the so-called decline of morality in society, but (the anti-gay law) only diverts attention from pressing problems of social insecurity of the population of Ukraine. Instead of solving real problems they trying to find a ‘common enemy’ in the state.”
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