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European Parliament slams region’s anti-gay laws, violence

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – The de rigueur clampdown on Pride events in several Eastern European countries, plus the proliferating moves to pass anti-gay laws in the region, has prompted a majority of European Parliament members to adopt a resolution "strongly condemning" discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The May 22 resolution comes on the heels of the seventh consecutive prohibition of Moscow Pride and the violence that erupted during an aborted attempt to stage a Pride march in Kiev, Ukraine.

Activist Svyatoslav Sheremet, of the group Gay Forum of Ukraine, was left beaten and bloodied when a group of youths attacked him following a media briefing about the march's cancellation, half an hour before its scheduled start, because of police fears of an attack by ultra-conservative counterprotesters.

About a dozen youths tear gassed people who had gathered for the march. 

The day before what was supposed to be the first-ever Pride parade in the Ukrainian capital, vandals also damaged a photo exhibit that showcased the lives of queer families in the former Soviet Republic, which became independent following the USSR's dissolution.

But like several cities within the Russian Federation, its neighbour Ukraine is on the road to passing so-called gay propaganda legislation that would criminalize queer human rights efforts and ban information about queer issues.

In its resolution, the European Parliament "condemns the violence and threats surrounding the Kiev Pride event," notes that EU agreements are conditional on respect for fundamental rights, and calls on Ukraine to introduce legislation to prohibit discrimination, including discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

The European Parliament also calls on Ukrainian authorities to immediately revoke proposed anti-gay legislation, as well as "commit to making a safe Kiev Pride event possible next year." It also "regrets" the gay propaganda laws already in place that are legitimizing homophobia "and sometimes, violence, as in the case of the violent attack on a bus carrying LGBT activists on 17 May 2012 in Saint Petersburg." 

These laws and proposals are "inconsistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which precludes discriminatory laws and practices based on sexual orientation, and to which Russia, Ukraine . . . and all EU Members States are parties," the resolution states. It further calls on the Council of Europe to "investigate these human rights violations, verify their compatibility with the commitments linked to Council of Europe membership and the European Convention on Human Rights." 

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