Without fanfare, and inconspicuously for the Ukrainian public, the Verkhovna Rada is currently considering legislation aimed at introducing criminal liability for public dissemination of information on homosexuality. Certain MPs are trying to hush debates which must not be hushed in free democracies. The proposed legislation concerns providing information about tolerance, aid to young people questioning their sexuality, and AIDS education and prevention. All this will be banned once the law is passed.
Homosexuality is a matter of democracy, rather than a matter of morals. Same-sex attraction has existed since time immemorial, and in all societies. Homosexuality is most certainly not a "completely Western", i.e. non-Ukrainian, phenomenon. Piotr Tchaikovsky was gay, but so were Alexander the Great and Thomas Mann. There are gay penguins and lesbian swans. Homosexual inclinations have been observed in 1,500 animal species. Homosexuality is a very natural phenomenon and if two people choose to stay together, share a life, and help each other in good times and in bad, this is a good decision for all of society and should be respected.
Homosexuality is not a disease, and it is not contagious. The World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of diseases in 1994. Many people who have no gay or lesbian friends are afraid that they or their children could “contract” homosexuality. This is nonsense. Homosexuality cannot be transmitted, since an individual’s sexual identity is unchangeable. The same is true for heterosexuality. A person cannot be made into a gay or lesbian. However, many people are unaware of their own sexuality or believe something to be wrong with it. For years they play hide-and-seek with themselves, deceiving themselves and their families as they try to deny their homosexual feelings. Many try to commit suicide or become depressed when they cannot manage their sexual identity. The realization that they are different from the majority is often aggravated by pressure from family, society, and religion. Even in the US and Germany the suicide rate among homosexual youth is considerably higher than the average figures for these countries’ respective populations. These young people die, taking with them their talents and potentials.
What they need in fact is good counselling, a tolerant environment and positive role models, which can help them to arrange their lives in the best possible way. This requires the ability to ask about homosexuality and get answers.
At his recent concert in Kyiv, one of the most popular rock singers of our day, composer and pianist Elton John called for rejecting Law No.8711. I hope Ukrainian MPs will take his appeal to heart. Otherwise, this article may be the last publication on the topic in Ukraine. And that would mean an end to freedom of speech, and an end to democracy.
Volker Beck is a Member of Parliament for the Green Party in the German Bundestag