Archive for March 27th, 2014


Human rights, Visa free and another political mess – Ukraine

March 27, 2014

A few days ago, interim Justice Minister Pavel Petrenko publicly announced that the EU had agreed to the dropping of reference to sexual minorities in legislation tied to the Visa free process between the EU and Ukraine.

Ethnic and religious minorities specifically mentioned – but not sexual orientation minorities – in any new legislative text intended to move the Visa-free issue along.

Why would the EU agree to that?

The reasons Ukrainian leaders seek to remove any such reference the LGBT rights is that they would claim there is no way that any such legislation would garner sufficient political support in the RADA containing any such specific reference.  Quite probably a claim that would prove to be true – and has proven to be true historically.

It would also not have overwhelming support amongst society either – despite Euromaidan ultimately ending up as a movement that we can broadly paint as a human rights/human dignity/democracy/rule of law movement.

As for “the Church” – its position toward LGBT issues  is unambiguous – and less than favourable.

Ergo, for an interim government whose legitimacy is questioned both internally and externally by some, and is  thus on somewhat shaky ground, multiplied by the fact that Mr Putin’s Russia attempts to frame itself as the home of “traditional Orthodoxy” when it comes to “Slavic values” – particularly over such “liberal” issues as LGBT rights – there seems little likelihood the interim government would easily survive a falling out with “the Church”, a sizeable voter constituency, and external pressure.

Even if the Ukrainian leadership wanted to include this issue in any legislation, it must be weighed against the reality that politics is the art of making maximum within the limits of what is possible.

Is forcing this issue now worth the risk of such a collapse prior to any elections?

The EU would seemingly have agreed with the Ukrainian leadership’s assessment if we are to believe Mr Petrenko’s statement.

Is further encouraging pro-EU sentiment by way of speeding up Visa-free – and at the same time denying it to Russian citizens – worth scuppering over this specific LGBT legislative issue?

After all, it can be revisited in less stormy times when some external and internal threats have been mitigated or overcome.   The EU will have plenty of levers for a long time to come to force this issue back onto the agenda.

Should not Ukrainian priorities be defending its sovereignty from the Kremlin threat, dealing with its dire economic state and producing a president and parliament with unquestioned legitimacy through new elections?

Should EU priorities not be the same in relation to Ukraine, whilst also enabling all Ukrainians to see and experience Europe for themselves?  Europeanisation through exposure and osmosis.

The EU would naturally prefer this specific group to be included and named in the legislation now – so would I – and it may yet force the issue – for despite the public claims of Mr Petrenko, no official statement confirming his assertion has been forthcoming from the EU – even when you pick up the telephone and ask them – thus at best, dropping the sexual minorities text can only be deemed “under consideration”.

All a bit messy for the moment – and seemingly created and placed into the public realm unnecessarily.

To me, the LGBT rights issue should not even be an issue – like so many other rights issues such as gender equality – but I am neither Orthodox nor a product of a Slavic mindset, nor even particularly socially conservative.

Even when I was rudely dumped from education into the workplace, in what was then a very heterosexual and misogynistic environment, a time when obituaries of the famous and influential read “confirmed bachelor” as euphemism for “homosexual”, did I have the slightest doubt in the validity of these equal rights.

If the political profiling models are in any way accurate, I would be at the liberal end of conservative or the conservative end of liberal – with the bare essential, extremely rare socialist tendencies in moments of inexplicable weakness.

Perhaps if the “pink vote” was concentrated in a specific region and therefore had a real effect on a certain electoral seat (or seats) then there would be at least some robust political advocacy for their cause.  As far as I know though, there is no such concentration in any region in Ukraine, and few MPs would take up the LGBT gauntlet voluntarily otherwise.

However, maybe there is a way to include the minority rights of the LGBT community without labeling them specifically.  Some very clever wordsmithery within the crafting of the legislation may accomplish it, together with the rights of all minority groups – without labeling any specifically but encompassing them all – if great legal minds are set to task upon the issue rather than the usual legislatively slipshod RADA dwellers.

In forcing the LGBT issue on Ukrainian lawmakers, aside from probably further weaken and already weak government it plays into the hands of Kremlin  “gay marriage, homo loving”  propaganda machine (which has worked very well), at a time of great social unease and instability.  Deferring the issue will cause many to question EU commitment to its values – again – or is facilitating earlier Visa-free access to the EU doing nothing more than promoting one of its overarching principles of free movement within the continent of Europe?

Some may ask why is this particular issue attached to Visa-free progress by the EU, when other possibly equally important legislative acts are not?  It is not as though EU membership is on offer for making deep structural societal changing legislation.

Why are some legislative requirements within the Association Agreement given many years for introduction and others demanded immediately when they can be seen as equally important by some.  Why is Visa-free not tied to the ratification of The Rome Statute – Article 8 of the Association Agreement – but to minority rights for example?  Both are justice and rights related.

Is there a fear that the Ukrainian LGBT community will claim asylum should Visa-free be introduced without their rights being specifically protected?  A fear – despite almost 10 years of visa-free into Ukraine for Europeans – that their visiting LGBT communities need specific legislative protection here suddenly?

What to do?  And whom should do it?

The current government, by Prime Minister Yatseniuk’s own admission, is one of “political suicide” that will make a lot of unpopular decisions – Would a decision to legislate for LGBT rights specifically, be any more unpopular than the signing of (parts of) the Association Agreement, or any IMF agreement when it comes – and the anticipated price hikes in utilities, and increased/new taxes?

Would any such LGBT legislation be repealed later on by future governments anyway?

Considering the Constitution is being redrafted, would LGBT minority rights be better sanctified once and for all in any new Constitution – something far harder to change than the repealing or amending of any standard minorities legislation.

The current 2004 constitution makes no mention of LGBT rights (only ethnic and religious minority rights specifically) – but it currently states:

Article 21. All people shall be free and equal in their dignity and rights.

Human rights and freedoms shall be inalienable and inviolable.

A very broad and inclusive text – which could perhaps be used elsewhere?

The 2004 Constitution of Ukraine raises yet further human rights questions.  Should the constitution be expanded to specifically include LGBT rights or reduced to something as short and all-encompassing as that single Article above?  Why be overly complex if simplicity will do?

Why, when ethnic and religious rights are already enshrined in the current constitution, is there a need to duplicate those rights in statute for the EU?  Will the new law expand on those rights (whilst ignoring LGBT rights specifically again)?  What makes the EU think that any new statutory law will be adhered to any more than the supreme law of the land which is consistently manipulated or completely ignored – whether they force LGBT rights to be included or allow Ukraine to defer the matter to a later date?

If  politics is the art of making maximum within the limits of what is possible – we are about to discover the limits of what is possible at this current moment in time for LGBT rights in Ukraine.


%d bloggers like this: