Human rights bodies have condemned moves by Ukraine to introduce prison terms for the "promotion of homosexuality", saying a new law went against the former Soviet republic's commitments.
Earlier this week and ahead of an Oct. 28 election, Ukraine’s parliament gave preliminary approval to a law whose authors said homosexuality was a threat to national security.
The bill will help deputies, most of whom are running for re-election, strike a chord with voters who hold a predominantly negative view of homosexuality.
Rupert Colville, the spokesman for Navi Pillay – the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights , told reporters in Geneva on Friday the law was “clearly discriminatory” and ran counter to Ukraine’s international commitments to freedom of expression and information.
“It may also undermine the rights to health and equality before the law, and raises serious question marks over the country’s adherence to fundamental human rights values.”
Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “I am seriously concerned by the fact that the Ukrainian Parliament is about to pass a law which would criminalise the promotion of homosexuality.
“Laws banning LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) issues mark a worrying step back towards a bygone era when homosexuals were treated like criminals.”
The European Union has repeatedly criticised Ukraine, which wants to join the 27-nation bloc eventually, over issues of human rights and democracy.
The EU shelved a landmark association agreement with Ukraine after opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years last October for abusing her power when prime minister.
Homosexuality itself is legal in Ukraine where a 2011 poll conducted by the Gorshenin Institute, a local think tank, found 78 percent of Ukrainians viewed it negatively.
Gay community leaders had to call off a planned “Pride” rally in Kiev in May after hundreds of anti-gay activists showed up.
On Thursday, Serbia was told it must better protect human rights if it wants to join the EU after banning Belgrade Pride – a march by gay activists planned for Saturday.
The EU, United Nations and Amnesty International were among those denouncing the ban.