MEPs worried by serious threats to freedom of expression

Monday, 21 May 2012

Members of the European Parliament are increasingly concerned by cancelled gay pride marches around Europe, and laws criminalising public support for LGBT rights.

Gay pride organiser Svyatoslav Sheremet is beaten up by thugs in Kiev on 20 May 2012 (Reuters)

On Sunday 20th May, the pride march in Kiev (Ukraine) was called off as police forces failed to protect marchers from an estimated 500-1,000 violent far-right protesters. One organiser of the event was sprayed with mace, and another was brutally beaten up by anonymous thugs.

On the 17th May, a bus carrying LGBT activists in Saint Petersburg was violently attacked, and two people were injured.

These attacks occur as Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary are adopting national and regional laws to forbid publicly expressing support for LGBT people’s human rights.

These laws criminalise what is termed “homosexual propaganda”, which can encompass rainbow flags or public messages such as “homosexuality is normal”.

Marije Cornelissen MEP, from the Greens/EFA, commented from Kiev: “It is shameful that the Kiev police didn’t protect a small group of peaceful pride participants. And while the government said it would adopt the anti-discrimination law as part of the visa liberalisation process, sexual orientation was taken out of the proposal.”

“Ukraine must revoke any homophobic law and commit to making a peaceful march possible next year.”

Dennis de Jong MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament, added: “The Commission and the External Action Service must take note of these bans and condemn them without hesitation. These are clear breaches of universally-agreed human rights, and we will work to ensure free speech remains a reality everywhere in Europe, including for LGBT people.”

Tomorrow Members of the European Parliament will debate a resolution on homophobia in Europe, with a particular focus on these laws. The debate can be followed live from 16:00 CET on the website of the European Parliament.

A resolution will be voted on Thursday 24th May.


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