LGBT rights in Ukraine

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LGBT rights in Ukraine
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1991[1]
Gender identity/expression Change of gender is allowed[2][3]
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption Single gays and lesbians who are citizens of Ukraine are allowed to adopt
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve
Discrimination protections No specific protections for sexual orientation or gender identity (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Ukraine may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Ukraine, but households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Overall Ukraine is a conservative, mainly Orthodox Christian, country. Most LGBT Ukrainians are afraid to be open about their orientation.[4]. There are a few LGBT publications (and internet sites) like "One of Us" and few gay bars and a night club in Kiev.


Since 1991, the Ukrainian LGBT community has become more visible in the urban cities and there are LGBT nightclubs, publications and human rights organizations. However, many Ukrainian citizens affiliate with one of the Christian sects that view homosexuality and cross-dressing as signs of immorality. As a result, there is little social support for LGBT people to be honest about their sexual or gender identity and a fairly high degree of verbal and physical harassment exists.[5]

Yet, there are some signs of change. There is a small, but vibrant, LGBT scene in places such as Kiev and in 2007, Ukraine chose a famous transgender singer as its Eurovision representative [4]. While they have been subject to protesters calling for government censorship, LGBT-themed television shows and films are becoming more commonplace.

Government and politics

On December 12, 1991 Ukraine became the first post-Soviet country recognized by the UN (technically, the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria de facto legalized by suspending the constitution of the Russian Soviet Republic on November 1, 1991) to decriminalize homosexuality. Homosexual relations between consenting adults (who have reached the age of sixteen years) in private were legalized as part of a post-Soviet reform of the criminal code. Adult sex-change operations have been legal since 1996. Beyond that, the political establishment tends to ignore LGBT issues or uses the public prejudices to generate political support.[6]

Constitutional rights

The National Constitution, approved in 1991, does not explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity. It does contain several clauses affirming basic human rights, including equal rights irrespective of such things as "political, religious and other beliefs" or "other characteristics". Such provisions could be used to advance LGBT rights, but the Ukrainian courts have largely avoided the subject.

Public opinion

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.[7]

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".[8] Of all the behaviors listed, homosexuality was viewed as the third worst after shoplifting and drunk driving. Notably, more people view this as acceptable than viewing 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, gay marriage only received 4.7% of the vote, the lowest by far (the next lowest being light drugs, at 7.1%).[9] This is the lowest percentage of any country in a recent poll asking about support for same-sex marriage (understanding, however, that in general, more homophobic countries won't even have the issue on the political spectrum and thus are less likely to be polled on the issue).

Political parties and groups

None of the major or minor political parties have formally come out in favor of LGBT rights. Most of what has been said, by politicians, in regards to LGBT rights has been overtly prejudicial and hostile.[10]

In 1998, the first LGBT rights group was created. Our World is a 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. [5] While these groups have been allowed to exist, they have faced public harassment and government bans when they have attempted to express their views publicly.

In 1999, the former president of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, stated that there are more important issues then LGBT rights to discuss in parliament and that homosexuality is caused by a mental illness or the corrupting influence of foreign films.[6]

In September 2003, the first, albeit small, public pride parade was held in Kiev.[4] 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 programme of events would have to be cancelled. Roman Catholics, Christianity of Evangelist belief, 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.[11]

In 2006, various government agencies sent formal replies to a LGBT rights group petition on behalf of LGBT rights, that acknowledged the human rights requirements for membership in the European Union, but otherwise expressed opposition to same-sex marriages.[12]

In 2007, the leader of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights called gay men "perverts" who must be stopped. Other MPs have attempted to restrict the freedom of expression by labeling LGBT-themed publications as pornographic propaganda. [6]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

The Constitution specifically defines marriage as a voluntary union between a man and a woman. The court has not ruled on whether or not this also bans legal recognition of civil unions.[13]

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) [14]. 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.

Additional restrictions are placed on foreign adopters. Only couples married in a registered different-sex marriage are allowed to adopt children from Ukraine [14][15]

Armed Forces

Conscription exists for Ukrainian men and homosexuality per se is not grounds for an exemption from military service, although it is possible that a regional enlistment commission could exclude gay or bisexual men [7].

Discrimination and harassment protections

In Ukraine, there are no anti-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation or gender identity and the constitution bans legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

There is a national hate crimes law that could be interpreted as including sexual orientation and gender identity, but that has not been decided by the courts [8].

More recently, anti-gay interest groups and politicians have sought to ban or classify any television program or film with LGBT themes as being pornographic and thus in violating of public morality laws unless it is publicly exhibited during a narrow time frame [9]. A similar move was made against a LGBT web page. One of the major anti-gay interest groups in the nation is the Love Against Homosexuality, which has the public support of celebrities and members of parliament who believe that LGBT people are "sexual perverts".[16]

If Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union it will have to protect LGBT citizens from some forms of discrimination and harassment.

Health care

According to the Constitution, health care is the right of every citizen of Ukraine. One of the major health crises in the nation has been the high number of people infected with AIDS–HIV [10]. While much of the prevention effort has been directed at drug addicts and prostitution, recent efforts have been made to develop special programs for the LGBT community.

See also

External links


  1. Ottosson, Daniel (May 2008). State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults Page 45. International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Retrieved on 2009-05-05.
  2. Gender Recognition Panel, Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom)
  3. Table of gender recognition schemes in countries and territories that have been approved by the Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom) (April 2006)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Trembling in Ukraine, The World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Jews: Keshet Ga’avah (2008)
  5. New Ukraine, Old Homophobia
  6. 6.0 6.1 PDF
  7. Evhen Golovakha, Andriy Gorbachyk, Natalia Panina, "Ukraine and Europe: Outcomes of International Comparative Sociological Survey", Kiev, Institute of Sociology of NAS of Ukraine, 2007, ISBN 978-966-02-4352-1, pp. 133-135 in Section: "9. Social discrimination and migration" (pdf)
  8. Ukrainians Decry Shoplifting, Drunk Driving, Angus Reid Global Monitor (December 18, 2007)
  10. [1]
  11. Stars back gay-bashing campaign for "traditional love" in Ukraine, Pink news (November 18, 2008)
  12. [2]
  13. Constitution of Ukraine
  14. 14.0 14.1 Family Code of Ukraine (in Ukrainian)
  15. Elton 'cannot adopt in Ukraine', BBC News (September 14, 2009)
  16. [3]


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