The Impact of the EU on the perception by the political elite on homosexuality in post-EuroMaidan Ukraine

Rémy Bonny wrote a Master Thesis on the impact of europeanisation on the political perspectives on homosexuality in Ukraine. This dissertation was supervised by dr. Jonathan Holslag, expert in International Relations at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and special advisor to European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

Since the EuroMaidan revolution in 2014 the mindset of the Ukrainian political elite is European. In the aftermath of the revolution, the European Union concluded two important agreements with the Ukrainian government. The Association Agreement and agreement on the visa-liberalisation for Ukrainian citizens travelling to the EU, led to domestic legal changes in Ukraine.

A majority of EU-citizens live in a country where they can marry with a same-sex partner (ILGA-Europe, 2017). LGBT-rights are more and more considered as one of the core norms and values of the European Union. Academics have determined that LGBT-rights have been part of the EU’s foreign affairs policy as well (Buzogány, 2012; Slootmaekers et al., 2016; Ayoub, 2016). Their research mainly focussed on countries involved in the accession programme of the EU.

This master thesis examined the impact of the European Union on the perspectives of homosexuality by the Ukrainian political elite since the EuroMaidan revolution. Despite Ukraine still being a rather homophobic country (Martsenyuk, 2012; ILGA-Europe, 2017), the country introduced four legal improvements for the LGBT-community. The first one considers the implementation of an amendment to the labor code that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The second change is the abolishment of the legal process to introduce an anti-propaganda law concerning the LGBT-community. The third change is the composition and commitment by the Ukrainian government to execute a National Human Rights Strategy. The Action Plan attached to this strategy shows the commitment to introduce a broad anti-discrimination law concerning LGBT-people and the implementation of civil partnerships for same-sex couples. Last, since EuroMaidan Pride Marches in Kyiv were much more secure. This encompasses the Ukrainian commitment to the ‘Freedom of Assembly’.

Through fieldwork in Kyiv and Brussels in-depth interviews with experts were executed. These interviews were analysed through thematic discourse analysis. The outcomes of this interviews clearly match the hypothesis. For all four reforms the European Union was the main influencing factor. While issue-linking during the negotiations processes for visa-liberalisation and the Association Agreement seems to be the most effective tools, the pro-European spirit since the EuroMaidan revolution should not be underestimated as well.

While EU-influence clearly led to legal changes, both Ukrainian and European officials and activists determined that the changes were rather marginal. While new laws liberalised some policies towards LGBT-people, the Ukrainian society, including the Ukrainian parliament remain rather homophobic. The openness towards the LGBT-community seems to be limited to the executive branch of power. Hindering factors for the evolvement of LGBT-rights in Ukraine are religion, nationalism and the occupation by the Russian Federation and pro-Russian separatists in certain Ukrainian regions.


💾 Read the full Master Thesis here

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