Ukraine: Homophobia over realism

A piece notes that Ukraine has chosen homophobia over closer links to the EU, “On Nov. 10 the Verkhovna Rada refused to pass a law that would have allowed Ukrainian citizens to have the long-awaited privilege of visa-free travel in the European Union. The reason behind the legislation’s resounding defeat? A provision preventing discrimination against gays in the workplace. This provision, which is a precondition for visa-free travel set by the EU, ignited a vociferous outcry, and ultimately turned into a red line which the Rada refused to cross. “As a country with a thousand-year-old Christian history, we simply cannot allow this,” is how Rada deputy Pavlo Unguryan, a member of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s own party, explained it after a previous attempt to pass the legislation on Nov. 5 failed”.

The report adds “This isn’t the first homophobic news to come out of Ukraine this year: On June 6, members of the ultranationalist group Right Sector attacked Kiev’s gay pride parade, brutally injuring numerous marchers as well as police. In July, when a pair of gay activists decided to test the extent of Ukraine’s new Western values by holding hands in the middle of Kiev, they were quickly assaulted by thugs. On Nov. 2, the Kyiv Post profiled Mykola Dulskiy, the founder of a vigilante group called Fashion Verdict, whose mission, according to the article, is to “sweep promiscuity, gambling, sexual offenders and homosexuality from the streets of Ukraine’s cities.” The “verdict” is delivered in a rather straightforward manner: Members of the organization track down and beat anyone they deem degenerate”.

The implications of this can be seen when he notes “But the damage caused by the Rada’s refusal to pass anti-discrimination laws extends far beyond generating just one more negative headline for Ukraine. It undermines the two biggest factors that enabled the country to survive the horrors of the two previous years: Western support and the dream of European integration. EU association is the issue that ignited Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution in November 2013. “Ukraine is Europe” was the rallying call for the hundreds of thousands who flocked to Kiev bearing EU flags following then-president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to go against the will of his people and cast Ukraine’s lot with Russia. Today, billions of dollars, over 2 million refugees and internally displaced persons, and thousands of lost lives later, a new group of politicians is once again dealing a blow to the dream of EU integration — all in the name of homophobia”.

The report goes on to argue “Some politicians, such as Oksana Syroyid, the Rada’s deputy speaker, hinted in a Nov. 9 remark that the anti-gay discrimination requirement had been suddenly sprung on the Rada. In reality, the EU made it clear as early as 2010 and continued reminding the Rada of its importance in the lead-up to the vote. It must also be noted that Moldova — another former Soviet republic mired in post-Soviet corruption and malaise — already enjoys the privilege of visa-free travel because it managed to pass a similar law. For the past two years, Ukraine has asked the West to provide it with billions of dollars, material support, and training, as well as to enact and sustain sanctions against Russia — sanctions that hurt not only the Russian economy but also the economies of Western Europe. Time and again, Ukrainian politicians fought to keep themselves at the forefront of Western agendas by reminding the West that Ukraine has been fighting not just for its sovereignty, but also for democratic values”.

Crucially the piece argues “By turning down the chance to pass reforms that would enable visa-free travel to Europe, the Rada undercuts the very EU and American support that is keeping Ukraine alive. This couldn’t have come at a worse time. Over the past several months, public statements by American leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, have made it clear that Kiev’s window of opportunity to battle the corruption that continues to plague the ex-Soviet republic is growing smaller. Europe, already strained by dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis and rehabilitating the Greek economy, is also running out of patience. “You keep reforming and we will keep supporting. That is the contract we are making with you,” is how Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, put it during a visit to Kiev earlier this year. There is a not-so-veiled flip side to that statement: Support, dear Kiev, is conditional. You stop reforming, we stop supporting”.

Sadly the report adds later that “The ultimate irony in all this is that Eastern Europe already has a country with organizations of homophobic thugs and politicians who use conservative Christian traditions to justify an atrocious record of violating the rights of the LGBT community. That is the very country Ukraine is trying to separate itself from: Russia. In perusing websites and statements by both Russian and Ukrainian far right groups and politicians, one is stunned by the identical tone: Both invoke the imagery of a nation with “a thousand-year history of Christianity” battling back the encroachment of decadent Western values in order to justify their cause. Both use the same derogatory terms for homosexuals. Both insist that their country can have a future only once it is cleansed of “foreign” influences. The only difference is, one set of slogans is written in Russian, the other in Ukrainian”.

It ends “Ukraine’s politicians just squandered the opportunity to justify the bloodshed and horror that so many of their people have endured over the past two years. Instead — and in spite of their loud declarations of being European — they chose to embrace homophobia, placing themselves firmly in line with Russia. Big sister would be proud”.



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