LGBT rights in Ukraine
|LGBT rights in Ukraine |
Location of LGBT rights in Ukraine (green)
in Europe (dark grey) – [Legend]
|Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status||Legal since 1991|
|Gender identity/expression||Transgender people allowed to change gender|
|Military service||Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation and gender identity protections in employment (see below)|
|No recognition of same-sex relationships|
|Same-sex marriage constitutionally banned.|
|Adoption||Single people allowed to adopt; same-sex couples banned|
Lesbian, gay, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Ukraine may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. 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.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union and Ukraine's independence in 1991, the Ukrainian LGBT community has gradually become more visible and more organized politically, organising several LGBT events in Kiev, Odessa, Kharkiv and Kryvyi Rih. These events have been marred by violent attacks by nationalist groups and cancellation by authorities. Most Ukrainians affiliate with the Eastern Orthodox Church, which has a significant influence on the perception of society towards members of the LGBT community. The Orthodox Church has opposed LGBT events and groups, often in the name of "combatting immorality", and has even encouraged violent attacks. As such, 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 of discrimination or violent harassment. Several politicians have proposed suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for LGBT people, by enacting so-called "anti-propaganda" laws.
In a 2010 European study, 28% of Ukrainians polled believed that LGBT individuals should live freely and how ever they like. A 2017 poll found that 56% of Ukrainians believed that gay and bisexual individuals should enjoy equal rights, marking a significant shift in public opinion. Attitudes are becoming more accepting, in line with worldwide trends. In 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament approved an employment anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity, and in 2016 Ukrainian officials simplified the transition process for transgender people and began allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood. Ukraine's desire to join the European Union has strongly impacted its approach to LGBT rights. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association has ranked Ukraine 36th out of 49 European countries in terms of LGBT rights legislation, similarly to EU members Lithuania and Romania.
Legality of same-sex sexual activity
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 sexual 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.
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, sex reassignment surgery and new personal identification.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
Article 51 of the Constitution specifically defines marriage as a voluntary union between a man and a woman. 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. However, in early 2018, the Ministry of Justice stated that "the development and submission to the Government of a draft law on the legalization of a registered civil partnership in Ukraine cannot be implemented" due to "numerous appeals from the regional councils, the Council of Churches and other religious organizations".
Discrimination protections and hate crime laws
After having failed to gain enough votes on 5 and 9 November 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament approved an anti-discrimination law banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination at work on 12 November 2015. A similar law (that law would have barred employers from rejecting workers based on their sexual orientation) was indefinitely postponed on 14 May 2013. 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. Before the vote of the bill, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Groysman strongly spoke out against same-sex marriage.
In November 2016, the Ukrainian Parliament refused to back the Istanbul Convention, a European domestic violence treaty, because its references to sexual orientation and gender violated what many Ukrainian lawmakers said were basic Christian values. The Convention is aimed at combatting domestic violence against women.
Gender identity and expression
In 2011, the Ukrainian Civil Code was amended and allowed for transgender persons who have undergone surgery to change their name to better reflect their gender identity. In 2014, seven people had sex changes and five people received new documentation.
Since December 2016, new identity documents are issued before surgery is conducted. This followed an August 2016 ruling, which ordered changes requested by two transgender people to their passports and all other documents without requiring them to undergo surgery. What's more, people with a child younger than 18 years old and married people can now also apply to transition. Previously, all applicants needed permission from a special commission of the Ministry of Healthcare and needed to spend 30 days in a psychiatric hospital (usually placed in the same wards with patients who are mentally ill) and needed to be diagnosed with "transsexuality". This is no longer required.
Adoption and parenting
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). 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.
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. Additionally, women are also allowed to serve.
In April 2016, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health enacted new regulations governing blood donation, allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood. Previously, the Ministry of Health listed "homosexuality" as a risky behaviour for which donors could not give blood.
"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."— Stas Mischenko, vice-president of Gay Alliance of 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. 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.
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, non-heterosexual sexual relations were labelled as abnormal. Some remnants of the Soviet mentality, which sees sexual topics as taboo and even denies their existence, still exist today.
Today, there are frequent reports of harassment, even violence directed at LGBT people in Ukraine. 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. 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. The Ukrainian police hardly ever detained attackers. 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.
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.
One of the major movement in opposition to LGBT rights in Ukraine is 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, who believe that LGBT people are "sexual perverts" who need to be cured. The organization laments the "discrimination of heterosexuals".
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have complained about an increase of attacks in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in Eastern Ukraine. Many volunteers that took in refugees from territory controlled by the Donetsk People's Republic refused to host LGBT people.
Freedom of expression and censorship
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.
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.
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)) was passed in first reading in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) on 2 October 2012. An estimated 20 community activists representing several organizations protested outside of the Verkhovna Rada building during the vote. On 4 October 2012, a second vote was tentatively scheduled for 16 October. This law was deemed homophobic by the LGBT community and human rights organisations and condemned by Amnesty International, the European Union and the United Nations. The Venice Commission concluded in June 2013 that the bill was "incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and international human rights standards". In January 2015, the bill was removed from the agenda.
A petition was subsequently started by anti-gay groups, calling for "measures to be taken to stop the propaganda of homosexuality and for defending family values". In March 2018, Ukraine's Anti-Discrimination Ombudsperson removed the petition from the electronic petitions section. By then, the petition had received 23,000 signatures and support from various religious organisations. The Ombudsman described the petition as "anti-freedom", and deleted it due to "containing calls to restrict human rights".
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. The Gay Alliance of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Гей-альянс Україна) was founded in 2009.
Pride parades and rallies
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 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.
A May 2012, a Kiev gay pride parade was canceled by its participants because they feared for their safety. Two gay rights activists were beaten up and tear gassed by a group of youths after pridegoers were evacuated by police escort.
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. The pride event was then changed to "a private event outside of the central part of Kiev". On this day on a narrow pathway near Pushkin Park and Shuliavska metro station, about 50 people gathered and marched. Among them, at least 10 were from Munich (Germany), including Vice Mayor Hep Monatzeder, and some were from Sweden. They marched under the protection of 1,500 policemen, 13 of the about 100 anti-gay protesters were arrested and no physical violence occurred. After one hour the protesters who took part in the parade were evacuated from the area. In an attempt to avoid revenge attacks, they then changed their clothes and switched modes of transport multiple times.
A procession organised by gay rights activists took place in central Kiev on 11 January 2014; admist the Euromaidan-protests.
The Kiev gay pride parade was again cancelled on 5 July 2014 after the police failed to guarantee its protection. It would have been a small, closed march several kilometers outside Kiev. The Love Against Homosexuality movement demanded its cancellation. 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". The "battle actions" Klitschko referred to was the post-ceasefire government offensive of the War in Donbass.
On 6 June 2015, Ukraine's second pride parade was held. The march was finished in less than half an hour. The number of police protection far outnumbered the pride participants. The venue for the march was only disclosed to the march's participants that had registered on its website. During the march, five policemen were injured in scuffles after unidentified people had attacked the rally with smoke bombs and stones. One police officer was admitted to intensive care. 25 anti-gay activists were arrested. 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. The organizers urged the pride participants to disperse in small groups and not to use the Kiev Metro. On 4 June 2015, Kiev Mayor Klitschko had again asked to cancel the pride citing "danger of provocations". On the other hand, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated on 5 June 2015 that there was no reason to prevent the march.
On 12 June 2016, Ukraine's third pride parade, dubbed the Equality March, was held in Kiev without incidents. 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. 57 people were detained for aggressive behavior.
On 13 August 2016, an LGBT Equality March was held in Odessa. The march of 50 people lasted about half an hour and was guarded by more than 700 police officers. Twenty men, who were trying to break through to the event, were detained.
In May 2017, LGBT activists organised a rally in the city of Kharkiv. 30 people attacked the participants and police officers, injuring two.
On 17 June 2018, Kiev's fifth pride parade, again dubbed Equality March, was held in the city centre. It lasted less than one hour and was, according to Kiev police attended by 3,500 people, while the organizers said there were at least 5,000 participants. No serious incidents occurred during the march. Clashes did break out when 150 far-right protesters who tried to block off the route were dispersed by riot police. 57 protesters were detained.
Attacks on the LGBT community
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.
An Amnesty International expert on Ukraine stated in 2013 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."
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.
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 Film Festival. None of the roughly hundred people attending were injured. 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 an LGBT theme.
Gay people are being actively persecuted in the separatist-controlled areas of Donbass.
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.
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". Of all the behaviors listed, homosexuality was viewed as the third worst after shoplifting and drunk driving. Notably, more people viewed this as never acceptable than 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.
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, at 7.1%).
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%.
A summer 2015 survey by the British Council revealed that one in five of Ukrainian youth would be uncomfortable with having lesbian and gay people as friends.
On 25 September 2016, European scientific studies detected that Ukrainians displayed higher levels of homophobia than Albanians and Italians, confirming the central role of cultural differences in homophobic attitudes.
A Pew Research Center poll published in May 2017 suggested that 9% of Ukrainians were in favor of same-sex marriage, while 85% opposed it. According to the poll, younger people were more likely than their elders to favor legal same-sex marriage (11% vs. 7%).
According to a 2017 poll carried out by ILGA, 56% of Ukrainians agreed that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should enjoy the same rights as straight people, while 21% disagreed. Additionally, 59% agreed that they should be protected from workplace discrimination. 20% of Ukrainians, however, said that people who are in same-sex relationships should be charged as criminals, while 55% disagreed. As for transgender people, 60% agreed that they should have the same rights, 58% believed they should be protected from employment discrimination and a plurality of 43% believed they should be allowed to change their legal gender.
|Same-sex sexual activity legal|
|Equal age of consent|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment only|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)|
|Recognition of same-sex couples|
|Single LGBT individual allowed to adopt|
|Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples|
|LGB people allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Right to change legal gender|
|Access to IVF for lesbians|
|Conversion therapy banned on minors|
|Homosexuality declassified as an illness|
|Transsexuality declassified as an illness|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood|
- Extracts from Groysman speech to the Verkhovna Rada 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". In favor of the bill, Groysman stated "the individual and his rights are at the foundation of our society."
- Former Minister of Justice Serhiy Holovatyi has never denied being a homosexual.
- A few religious anti-gay protesters, disguised as journalists, attempted to rip banners and placards of the paraders.
- The survey was not held in Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.
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