LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Ukrainian Parliament passes draft law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ in first reading

Joint media release by the International Commission of Jurists and ILGA-Europe.

Brussels, Belgium / Geneva, Switzerland – The Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, yesterday voted with an overwhelming majority to support a bill that would ban “homosexual propaganda”. 289 out of 450 members of parliament supported the bill, which is now expected to move for a second round of reading in parliament later this month.

The International Commission of Jurists and ILGA-Europe are deeply concerned about the impact of Draft Law no. 8711 on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Ukraine as well as the rights of everyone to the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. ICJ and ILGA-Europe urge the Ukrainian parliament to withdraw the bill from its agenda and call on the Chair of the Parliament and the President, who would both need to sign the bill in order for it to become law, to speak out against it.

The bill would modify several existing laws in Ukraine, including criminal law, and introduce sanctions for the import, production and distribution of products that would "promote" homosexuality. “Promotion of homosexuality” is itself undefined. “If voted into law, it would lead to the further marginalisation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community in the country and would limit the work of human rights defenders,” Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe said.

ILGA-Europe and the ICJ believe that Draft Law no. 8711 is incompatible with international human rights law. First it is so vague that it fails to conform to the requirement that restrictions must be provided for by law. Under the draft law, it is impossible for an individual to determine what kind of expression is banned. Second, the asserted reasons for the “homosexual propaganda” ban fail the tests of proportionality and necessity. In other words, the restriction serves no permissible purpose. Third and finally, the homosexual propaganda ban discriminates against LGBT people by prohibiting public discourse on issues that matter to LGBT lives. “Restrictions on rights may not be discriminatory, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is clearly prohibited under international law,” said Alli Jernow, Senior Legal Adviser of the International Commission of Jurists.

The EU should raise these developments in the context of the monitoring of the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan. Parliamentary discussion of this law clearly demonstrates that progress is stalled. If the bill passes a second reading, further negotiations with Ukraine should be delayed or ultimately suspended. We also call on the Council of Europe to unequivocally denounce Draft Law no. 8711 in representations to the Ukrainian government.

The law is expected to be discussed at a second hearing in the coming weeks. After that the Chair of the Parliament and the President would need to sign the bill before it would become official law.

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Composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world, the International Commission of Jurists promotes and protects human rights through the Rule of Law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems. Established in 1952 and active on the five continents, the ICJ aims to ensure the progressive development and effective implementation of international human rights and international humanitarian law; secure the realization of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights; safeguard the separation of powers; and guarantee the independence of the judiciary and legal profession:

ICJ and ILGA-Europe issued a joint briefing paper earlier this year providing an overview of different “homosexual propaganda” bans.