Ukraine Tosses Gay Pride Into Prison

Former Soviet republic watched ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and knows how to quit you.

Members of an ultra-right organization confront a gay-rights activist in Kiev. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Jul 23, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

Discrimination remains a problem in the U.S., but it’s sometimes important to acknowledge that the grass isn’t always greener someplace else. Case in point:

The New York Times reports that, “If a group of Ukrainian lawmakers succeeds in its mission, television shows and movies like Brokeback Mountain that sympathetically portray gay men and lesbians will be banned. So will gay pride parades. The recently introduced bill, supported by the president’s representative in Parliament, would impose prison terms of up to five years and unspecified fines for spreading the ‘propaganda of homosexuality,’ which the measure defines as positive depictions of gays in public.”

Earlier this year, The Times noted that the Russian city of St. Petersburg—Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union until it was dissolved in 1991—passed a law “aimed at eliminating what its backers called ‘propaganda’ of homosexuality among minors, prompting fears among gay rights groups of an impending crackdown on their activities as other cities vowed to look into adopting similar measures. . . . But the issue has gradually begun to attract the attention of the Russian news media, including government-controlled television, which has occasionally given a platform to advocates of equal rights for gay people.”

MORE: The Morman March for Gay Pride in Utah

Taking a page from its democratic cousins, the Russian electorate recoiled as if it were an Internet outrage meme from the discriminatory legislation: “Passage of the new law has helped raise to the level of national discussion the topic it was meant to suppress. The legislation set off a media frenzy when introduced late last year, and has been the subject of boisterous debates on television.”

A similar reaction would be a welcome development in Ukraine, where many people seem to be equal-opportunity discriminators. Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) said yesterday that, “The hostility toward homosexuals raises concern and wider questions about tolerance in Ukraine and whether the country is truly capable of embracing Western values as it strives to join the European Union. In the run-up to last month’s European football championship, co-host Ukraine was rocked by allegations of racism, as fans at one stadium performed monkey chants directed at black players.”

Changing minds in an atmosphere like this will be difficult, particularly when you have politicians like Pavlo Ungurian. He was one of the six lawmakers who authored the anti-gay bill and, according to SCPR, he “told reporters Monday that growing acceptance of gay rights in the West is ‘not evolution, but degradation’ and needed to be fought.”

Meanwhile, the Voice of America has stated that, “The United States is looking for ways to strengthen its relationship with Ukraine on energy, security and the economy, but remains concerned about Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law.”

“Concern” seems like a bit of an understatement.

Should we be something more than concerned about gay rights in Ukraine? Leave some reactions in COMMENTS.

Show Comments ()

More on TakePart

Thousands Share Their Messages of Support With Navajo Nation’s ‘Water Lady’