LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Dutch vote could set back LGBTI rights in Ukraine

On 6 April, a referendum will be held in The Netherlands on the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement. A No vote has the potential to negatively affect the lives of LGBTI people in Ukraine.

LGBTI groups in Ukraine have a clear message for Dutch citizens: please vote YES.

2013 - Euromaidan

Back in 2013, during the Euromaidan protests, LGBTI groups (as part of a broad pro-European movement) clearly showed their support for closer ties with the EU. Since then, the Ukrainian parliament has taken several progressive steps towards legal and social equality for LGBTI people. One of these steps was a comprehensive national action plan on LGBTI rights in 2015. The action plan was formulated in cooperation with Ukrainian LGBTI groups, and it is a strong plan: It sets out a vast number of steps ranging from improve access to healthcare for intersex people, hate-crime legislation and drafting of a civil partnership bill for different-sex and same-sex couples - just to mention a few.

2014 - Ukraine moves closer to the EU

The EU currently has association agreements with a diverse group of countries including for instance Algeria, Chile, South Africa and Tunisia. In 2014, an association agreement was established with Ukraine after long negotiations. Unlike some people say, an association agreement is not about EU accession. There are many points in the agreement – and it is mostly about economic and political ties between Ukraine and EU. But before the agreement could be finalised, EU pushed for Ukraine to actively promote anti-discrimination and human rights for all.

Willingness to work on LGBTI issues

Life for LGBTI people in Ukraine has not been easy. However, the concrete action points set out by the EU have made their way on to the agenda of Ukrainian policy makers. There is no doubt that Ukraine’s move towards the EU has been beneficial for LGBTI people’s rights.

2016 - Referendum challenges the agreement

All EU agreements have to be adopted in the European Council – so all 28 countries of the EU need to approve it. Now the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement is challenged, due to a referendum in The Netherlands.

The referendum was initiated when satirical website GeenStijl collected over 400,000 signatures. If more than 30% of the voters turn out, the results will be considered eligible.  Whilst the referendum result is non-binding for the Dutch government, it could create an uncomfortable position for the Netherlands which is currently chairing the European Union.

Ukrainian LGBTI movement calls on Dutch voters

A no vote will likely drift Ukraine further away from EU values, not move them closer. Make sure to use your vote push for the direction for Ukraine that would benefit LGBTI people.