Advocacy groups in Ukraine have said that homosexuals in the Eastern European country are being targeted by an increasing amount of intolerance and violence, and have criticized the government for pushing legislation that would criminalize any positive portrayals of homosexuality.
While Western Europe embraces gay pride parades, the most recent attempt to stage such a celebration of homosexuality in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, was canceled over concerns that radical groups were planning to physically attack participants. Also, on Wednesday of last week, the head of Our World gay rights advocacy group said that the situation in the ex-Communist country was getting worse, The Associated Press reported.
"Homophobia in Ukraine has entered the stage of physical violence," Oleksandr Zinchenkov shared of his concerns. As further evidence of his fears, the canceled gay pride parade in May still led to two gay leaders in Ukraine being violently beaten.
One of those leaders was Svyatoslav Sheremet, leader of Ukraine's Gay Forum. After the canceled event, Sheremet was doused in pepper spray and kicked violently to the ground by an unidentified group of youths wearing masks. The same fate awaited Taras Karasiychuk, another gay parade organizer, who was attacked 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.
"Eventually, society comes to realize that one can only live peacefully when one is tolerant," he added at the press conference last week, sharing his hopes for the future – but even then was attacked when an anti-gay activist splashed buttermilk on him, the AP shared.
Ukraine's government has also been criticized for plans to introduce a bill that would ban the "propaganda of homosexuality" and protect youths from pro-gay messages by blocking public or media messages that openly support homosexuality – effectively making being openly gay illegal.
President Viktor Yanukovych and five other prominent legislators submitted last month a bill calling for prohibiting the "propaganda of homosexuality," The Huffington-Post shared. The new bill would impose fines and jail terms on those caught telling minors that being a homosexual is okay.
Pavlo Ungurian, another lawmaker supporting the bill, has said that the growing acceptance of homosexuality in the West is "not evolution, but degradation" and needed to be fought, according to the AP.
"Our goal is the preservation of the moral, spiritual and physical health of the nation," he said. "We must stop the propaganda, the positive description and the publicity ... of this abnormal lifestyle."