Activists urge Ukraine’s Parliament to pass ‘visa-free laws’

The fight against corruption, the abolition of immunity of MPs and judges, the prohibition of employment discrimination are among the "visa-free package" issues.

About 200 activists have gathered outside the Parliament of Ukraine before the sitting to consider the so-called "visa-free package" - ten laws within Ukraine's implementation of the action plan on liberalization of the EU-Ukraine visa regime.

This is reported by the Human Rights Information Center correspondent.

The bills relate to the fight against corruption, the abolition of immunity of MPs and judges, judicial protection of foreigners, confiscation and arrest of property, procedures establishing the fact of birth or death in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, and the most controversial issue of employment non-discrimination.

The activists brought the homemade posters with the demands to pass a particular bill. The activists were also holding rainbow umbrellas, flags of the European Union, LGBT and transgender community, the wooden signs reading: “Do not FU€K with us” and “#UA101010.” The hashtag means that the activists gathered at 10 a.m. on November 10 to demand that the MPs approve ten bills.

According to Olena Shevchenko from the NGO "Insight", the provision on discrimination prohibition should be introduced to the Labour Code of Ukraine, "It is very important to prohibit discrimination. Do you see all these people standing in the ranks? These people suffer discrimination. Thus, these people must be protected. The people are dismissed from work and are not hired just for the reason they are different. It’s not just about sexual orientation. It may be sex, the women who have not given birth yet. They are not hired because they can give birth suddenly. And it is their right, you know? People should be employed regardless of their nationality, orientation, ethnicity, gender identity, sex, age. The age discrimination is just terrible thing in our society. If you are older than 45, it’s impossible to get employed for you."

The activist told there were many incidents of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, it is difficult to prove these facts in the court, because there is no relevant definition in the Ukrainian legislation.

Olena Shevchenko mentioned that the activists opposed the adoption of the Labour Code in its effective version. In addition, the activists demand to pass the ten laws required for the visa-free regime with the EU.

According to Olena Shevchenko, the anti-corruption laws are particularly important, "Our country has two problems: discrimination and corruption. The roots are basically the same: some people consider themselves to be higher and put other people lower. So we will move nowhere without the anti-corruption laws."

When the action was being prepared, the people, who support all the “visa-free package” laws except for discrimination bill, were confused. Olena Shevchenko noted that "we were asked not to come with our symbols, saying it is not the time to demand equal rights, allegedly ‘your time will come later and now let's now push the rest of the bills.’ But we believe this to be totally wrong as there can be no hierarchy of human rights."

Action participant Olena Lisniak, who was holding the poster demanding to vote for the bill on abolishing the immunity of MPs and judges, said that this condition would be the sign of change, "For me, the abolishment of immunity would be a litmus test that something happens, changes for the better. Honestly speaking, I do not really believe this will happen because our MPs have been very indecisive in this issue. The immunity of judges and MPs should be at least limited."

According to Executive Director of the All-Ukrainian Charity Organization "Fulcrum" Bohdan Hloba, "the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation has been already adopted in more than 90 world countries. So it refers not only to Europe but to joining the whole civilized world. We hope that all the bills of this package will be passed and the Ukrainians will be able to travel to Europe without visas."

In addition, Bohdan Hloba said that there were some manipulations regarding the provision on discrimination and the LGBT community virtually would get no special rights in case of adoption of this provision, "This provision does not protect LGBT people and does not give them any preferences. It provides for prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in general and is equal for all. That is, if an LGBT organization does not employ a heterosexual person because of his or her orientation, this article also protects such a person."

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