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Flak for Euro 2012 host Ukraine over anti-gay bill

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Activists are putting pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to boycott the Euro 2012 football tournament because of an anti-gay bill making its way through the parliament of the event’s co-host Ukraine.

Germany’s first openly gay footballer, Marcus Urban, is backing the campaign to urge Merkel to use the globally watched event to take a stand against the bill.

Thus far, more than 72,000 people have signed an petition calling on Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, to stop passage of the law that bears similarities to anti-gay gag laws now in place in four Russian cities, including St Petersburg. Another petition, posted June 5 and signed by more than 20,500, calls on Merkel to give Yanukovych a “red card” for not acting to halt the legislation and to cancel her trip to Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. 

If passed, the Ukrainian version would lead to a virtual banning of all information about homosexualty, including a crackdown on “awareness raising activities of human rights organizations” and “articles about homosexuality in mass media,” ILGA-Europe, the European region of the International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, says in a press statement. “Such  activities would become criminal and thus punishable by steep fines or imprisonment up to five years,” ILGA notes. The proposed  legislation assumes that so-called “promotion of homosexuality” is a threat to children and religion. Björn van Roozendaal, director of programs for ILGA-Europe, says such reasoning is false, based on myths not facts. 

Amnesty International (AI) had previously warned gay football fans and people of ethnic minorities to take precautions if they intended to be in Ukraine for the tournament. Recently, Kiev’s first attempt to hold gay pride was aborted after police warned of attacks by ultra-conservative counterprotesters. Despite the event’s eventual cancellation, those who had intended to participate still encountered violence. 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.

The European Parliament was also moved to adopt a resolution “strongly condemning” discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the region. 

"I would advise any gay football supporters going to the Ukraine to go there with extreme caution and be on the lookout for both the police and hooligans and try to keep as low a profile as possible,” warned AI campaigner Max Tucker.

The Euro Cup kicks off June 8 in Ukraine and Poland.

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