KIEV, Ukraine (The Blaze/AP) -- While some countries, like the United States, have vastly increased the presence of gays and lesbians in popular media, the situation in Ukraine is unique. If a group of lawmakers have their way, television shows and movies depicting homosexuals could be banned in the Eastern European country.
Last month, six legislators, including President Viktor Yanukovych's representative in parliament, submitted a law that calls for prohibiting the "propaganda of homo-sexuality." If passed, the law would impose fines and even jail terms on those who deliberately disseminate positive information about gays to minors. Anything from movies, television series, photographs and even art exhibits viewable by children would become illegal.
Lawmaker Pavlo Ungurian, who co-wrote the bill, told a news conference Monday that its goal was to preserve "the moral, spiritual and physical health of the nation."
The bill has caused outrage among Western rights groups and politicians who said it would make being openly gay effectively illegal. This news comes just days after human rights groups claimed that anti-gay sentiment is on the rise in the Ukraine.
The gay community was forced to cancel its first ever gay pride parade in the capital, Kiev, in May due to concerns activists would be physically attacked by radical groups. After the cancellation, two gay leaders were violently beaten.
Oleksandr Zinchenkov, head of the Our World gay rights advocacy group, told a news conference Wednesday that Ukrainians have been increasingly hostile toward gays and lesbians in recent months.
This year homophobia in Ukraine “has entered the stage of physical violence,” he said.
Svyatoslav Sheremet, who leads Ukraine’s Gay Forum, said the community had decided to hold Ukraine’s first gay pride event believing that gays and lesbians were finally ready to be greeted by society. For every one gay Ukrainian who is out, he said, another 80 are forced to hide their sexuality.
But despite strong support from the U.S. Embassy in Kiev and other Western groups, they were forced to cancel the May 20 event on learning that hundreds of anti-gay activists had arrived in Kiev looking for confrontation.
Shortly after the parade was cancelled, Sheremet was first doused with pepper spray, and then kicked in the head, legs and arms by a group of youths wearing surgical mask. They then stomped on his back. A month later, Taras Karasiychuk, another gay parade organizer, sustained a concussion and a fractured jaw when he was attacked by men shouting homophobic insults outside his home.
“The message was clear: ‘don’t come out onto the streets with your gay rights, stay at home or in your clubs,’” Sheremet said.
Sheremet expressed hope Wednesday that violence and hostility would eventually give way to more tolerance and acceptance, saying that he saw this as a “necessary crisis period,” after which social integration would follow.
“Eventually, society comes to realize that one can only live peacefully when one is tolerant,” he said.
Minutes after the news conference was over, however, he was doused in buttermilk by an anti-gay activist.