In September Elton John traveled to Ukraine to tell the country's leaders to support LGBT rights. He spoke at a gathering of much of the country's elite at the invitation of one of its oligarchs.
John spoke of the need for 'dialogue', saying:
We have to have it because there is a revolution of acceptance and understanding happening around the globe. And for any country wanting to build a more tolerant society, you have to be a part of it.Speaking, as he was to mainly businesspeople, he explained how equality was good for business:
Laws and policies designed to repress LGBT citizens and to keep people in the shadows hinder economic development. Such policies are detrimental to business and economic interests. They jeopardize the safety and well being of employees and workers.Everyone listened politely and applauded him yet seven weeks later the Ukrainian parliament has rejected basic labour protections for LGBT people.
The decision is not just bad for LGBT people but kyboshes the relaxation of visa requirements for Ukrainians wanting to travel to the European Union - including LGBT non-discrimination is a basic requirement for the EU, although far from the only one.
According to Halya Coynash:
A suspiciously large number of MPs were absent, and many abstained, rather than voting against.The Chair of the parliament's Committee on European Integration, Irina Herashchenko, condemned her fellow MPs behaviour on Facebook, writing:
Today, when the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the European countries should fulfill their commitment to non-discrimination and support the European norm about impossibility of any discrimination in employment, including on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation, started a real coven obscurantist. Our core values - respect for the identity of this man! Respect! By the difference! And do not get into the personal lives of people.The journalist and activist Maxim Eristavi wrote:
Serhiy Kaplin, MP, president's "Petro Poroshenko's Bloc": "I haven't voted because of my religious stance, also because our ancestors, Cossacks would just trample those people with their horses'The possibility for introducing change via the courts was suggested on 20 October, by Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, "as we have in the Constitution clear provisions on the impossibility of discrimination." Though there is no indication that the government will support this.
Pavlo Unguryan, MP, prime-minister's "People's Front": 'There's no discrimination of them. We, as the country with a thousand year old Christian tradition, just simple can't allow this'
Volodymyr Ariev, MP, president's "Petro Poroshenko's Bloc": "I took this sin. I voted yes. You can slap me around, but it was a demand for visa-free regime with EU. Everyone will answer for their decisions before the God in the end"
These comments show that the Western partners of Ukraine pretty much failed to communicate to local political elites what basic human rights protection means and why hate speech from a politician is not acceptable anymore anywhere in countries that call themselves civilized.
It has been previously reported that the pressure to exclude LGBT from any anti-discrimination provisions is, unsurprisingly, coming from the Ukrainian Church. There have also been signs of pressure from international religious conservative forces and there may well be a Russian hand also at work.
But the bottom line is a complete absence of leadership from politicians.
In Ukraine little if any progress has been made on LGBT rights. There have been recent assaults on two community centres, in Kryvyi Rih and Odesa. Earlier there was the assault on the Kyiv Pride March.
We recently learned that the county's human rights strategy had been drawn up without any mention of LGBT people. 89% of openly gay people reported discrimination during the previous three years in a 2011 survey.
Some progress has been made in the way the state treats trans people.
In occupied Crimea and in the Donbas (where homosexuality has been recriminalised) of course the situation for LGBT is far worse.
There have been questions asked as to whether the EU's position will hold. According to regional LGBT groups there has been a "lack of consistent and uncompromised commitment of the EU to human rights of LGBTI persons, non-discrimination, and respect of diversity in its cooperation with eastern neighbours."
put out earlier in September by the Equal Rights Trust on inequality in Ukraine:
LGBT rights have become a fragile off-shoot of a pro-European choice: “we’d rather have a gay pride in the streets of Kyiv than Russian tanks”, a Kyiv resident told the Trust.Maxim Eristavi wrote last year about the spinelessness shown by the EU on LGBT rights in their negotiations with Ukraine - a fact which has gone unreported and completely undermines Russian propaganda.
Eristavi has also written about how gay people were part of the Maidan demonstrations that overthrew the corrupt government of Yanukovych. Eristavi counted seven gay people among the 'Heavenly Hundred' murdered by Berkut/Russian special forces. A number of people reporting on the military fight in East Ukraine have noted the presence of LGBT on the frontline as they condemned this parliamentary vote.
Never mind the rejection of basic human rights, it is shameful what Ukraine is doing to the memory of those who have fought and died for it.