Conference “Same-sex Partnership in Ukraine: Today and Tomorrow“. Kyiv, 21 March 2017
According to estimates made by LGBTI Human Rights Nash Mir Center, there are at least 100-200 thousand same-sex couples live in Ukraine at the moment. Two men or two women are emotionally attached to each other, jointly share joy and sorrow, maintain a common household, acquire property perhaps, and sometimes such couples raise children together. But our country’s legislation does not yet recognize such devoted and practical partnerships under Ukrainian law. Furthermore, some provisions of the Family Code of Ukraine directly discriminate against same-sex unions. The Code, however, does include some of the rights and mutual obligations of opposite-sex couples who have not entered into a marriage but live together – yet denies even those minimum considerations to same-sex partners, who also live in a de facto relationship that constitutes a family.
Note that in 2015 and the Action Plan on Implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy was adopted by the Ukrainian government. One of its paragraphs provides for (by the second quarter of 2017) drafting a bill on legalization of registered civil partnership in Ukraine for different-sex and same-sex couples. However, the implementation of this item is hampered because of opposition from conservative circles of various kinds, from nationalist to pro-Soviet, which still have a strong influence upon society – as well as because of the reluctance of most politicians and officials “to risk their reputation”. So at present the Ukrainian government has not even selected a public authority that is tasked to engage in the development and promotion of the needed bill.
Naturally, this state of affairs satisfies neither members of LGBTI organizations, who are directly aware of the issues of same-sex couples, nor the large pro-European part of civil society. All these circumstances and potentials served as the basis for holding the conference “Same-sex partnership in Ukraine: today and tomorrow” in Kyiv on 21 March this year. The presentation of Nash Mir Center’s newest publication “The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness” (English summary) became an important and signal event at the conference. This report includes both an analysis of Ukrainian legislation in terms of same-sex family rights, a look at some foreign experiences in this area, and the results of the Center’s own research. Besides bringing to light the objective figures of sociological statistics, the publication provides a place for the expressed opinions of ordinary LGBT Ukrainians who long to have the right to find happiness and security just like their straight compatriots do.
Andrii Kravchuk, an Expert on Nash Mir Center, stressed: “Same-sex partnerships, quite similar to ordinary opposite-sex families, have always been in existence, exist right now, and will exist in our country regardless of the law’s relevance. Couple-bonding is created on the living basis of love and mutual help by actual involved people – homo- and bisexual residents of Ukraine – and not on the basis of some document or registry record. Moving toward passage, the law on registered partnership is intended to solve justly the problems of such families, who effectively do not differ from spousal partners in ordinary marriage”.
The participants of the conference were presented with a photo exhibition “OUR FAMILIES: Diversity + Equality”. The collection consisted of pictures of ordinary Ukrainians – lesbian and gay couples in real life, who were bold enough to become faces of our advocacy campaign.
Conference adopted the appeal to the Ukrainian authorities “We demand the introduction of registered civil partnerships in Ukraine!”
After the official program, guests gathered for a planned party. On this day of spring Nash Mir celebrated its 20th anniversary! Over the years, it has evolved from a grassroots group of like-minded friends in Luhansk, to the organization it is today, noteworthy and received on a national scale by many accounts. Nash Mir supports a network of activists in the regions who are involved in monitoring violations of the LGBTI community’s rights, providing legal assistance to the victims of those violations, and raising citizens’ legal knowledge.
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Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights