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John writes: "On Saturday night I was in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, performing at an AIDS awareness concert. Some people might have preferred me not to come."

Elton John performs at a charity concert dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Kiev, 06/30/12. (photo: Reuters)
Elton John performs at a charity concert dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Kiev, 06/30/12. (photo: Reuters)

Gay Rights Are Human Rights

By Elton John, Guardian UK

01 July 12


Ukraine's threat to outlaw homosexuality should be opposed by all those who believe in equality.

n Saturday night I was in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, performing at an Aids awareness concert. Some people might have preferred me not to come. Why? Because Ukraine, which waited so long for its own freedom, now threatens the freedom of gay people to express themselves in the most basic of ways - by taking part in a gay-pride parade or even speaking openly about homosexuality.

Draft law number 8711, due to be debated by the Ukrainian parliament this week, would make it an offence to talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues in the media. Even HIV advice to gay men could be banned. Some of the local activists I spoke to believe it would become illegal even to use the word "gay" in public. And the penalties are harsh - heavy fines or up to five years in prison. According to the UN, the law would amount to state-promoted discrimination and would violate a large number of rights protected under treaties signed by Ukraine.

The threat to the LGBT population is not just theoretical; it is very real. Just over a month ago a gay pride march to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia had to be called off less than an hour before it was due to begin because of a counter-demonstration. The police said they couldn't guarantee the safety of the marchers. One of the organisers, Svyatoslav Sheremet, was savagely beaten by thugs hiding behind surgical masks shortly afterwards and suffered eye injuries and multiple cuts and bruises to his face and body. I met this brave man backstage on Saturday night.

The wave of anti-gay violence and official harassment is not confined to Ukraine. Laws banning so-called gay propaganda were first passed in parts of Russia, including St Petersburg. Under the pretext of protecting minors, they make it illegal to hold any kind of parade, exhibition or even film festival that promotes equality for LGBT people. Just ask yourself how likely it is that a young person would be corrupted by a poster for a gay movie and you can see how absurd the laws are. They are a direct and intentional attack on the human rights of LGBT people.

How tragic that Ukraine, which suffered under Russian domination for so long, should now be following suit. In 1991, Ukraine became the first former Soviet republic to decriminalise homosexuality. Twenty years later, it is among the first to threaten to imprison gay people again.

If that wasn't bad enough, HIV charities - including my own Elton John Aids Foundation - are convinced the new law would make it harder to get safe-sex advice to the young people who need it most. The UN says the failure to protect LGBT rights is one reason why the HIV epidemic is advancing in Ukraine.

In Britain we know all about laws against the "promotion" of homosexuality. Section 28 was a piece of legalised prejudice that took years to remove from the statute books. These new laws in eastern Europe go much further.

I was joined backstage in Kiev by Lance Price, the executive director of the British LGBT rights organisation, the Kaleidoscope Trust. I am a strong supporter of the charity, whose message is simple: LGBT rights are human rights and human rights are LGBT rights. We are not asking for any special privileges, just the same protections under the law as everybody else.

This week, in the runup to World Pride in London on Saturday, Kaleidoscope is launching a campaign - "What if it were illegal for you to be you?" Imagine if it were illegal to have blue eyes, or be under 5ft 10ins, and if breaking this law meant you could go to prison, or face attack or even death.

In Ukraine and elsewhere, gay people don't have to imagine it. They already face the very real prospect of being criminalised for their sexuality. In no fewer that 78 countries around the world homosexual acts are still illegal. In five of them the maximum penalty is death.

Until equality is respected everywhere and there is universal acceptance of human rights for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, I will continue to speak my mind. I have the freedom to do so and nobody can take it away from me. Every other gay person in the world deserves the same. your social media marketing partner


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+44 # jimmyaloha 2012-07-01 12:13
Democratic countries need to pull all trade/aid from Ukraine.
+15 # barkingcarpet 2012-07-01 13:37
Agreed, and, what is your definition of a democracy, as well as which countries do you consider to be such? America is not one currently, and it is debatable if it ever has been one, at least not for blacks, women, native Americans, poor people, etc.
+19 # jerryball 2012-07-01 12:34
So, the Ukraine is about to discriminate against approximately 3,000,000 of their citizens for being who they are? When you break down the numbers it IS a travesty. It's not just the queen down the street, but go up into the millions. They are a product of their Soviet Masters.
+12 # anntares 2012-07-01 12:39
The NY Times carried an article about scientific research in 1980 or 1981 that proved an embryo receives hormones about 3-4 days after conception... sometimes a male embryo gets too much estrogen or too little testosterone or a female embryo embryo gets too much testosterone or too little estrogen. The criminalization is the crime. We wouldn't criminalize someone born with darker pigmentation, would we? No, we'd just enslave them or, if that's too old-fashioned, just ensure they get un-equal opportunities.
+18 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2012-07-01 13:18
Don't kid yourselves, the right wing political forces in America would be happy if the same proposed laws were passed here, even as they trumpet "freedom," absolutely oblivious to the contradiction.
+18 # grouchy 2012-07-01 13:28
Sounds primitive until I remember we were (are) there just a few years ago--and still are in a good part of the U.S. We have little going for us to look down our noses at other nations about this.
+26 # Rich Austin 2012-07-01 13:46
Ukraine was visited by a “religious” group from the USA. Watchmen on the Walls is a homophobic “Christian” organization with ties to Holocaust deniers. It toured Russia and Latvia to spread its anti-gay venom. They have klaverns in Sacramento, Portland and Seattle. The anti-gay tactics of homophobic evangelicals in the U.S. branch of the Watchmen movement are just as crude and even more physically abusive than Fred Phelps' infamous Westboro Baptist Church, and they're rooted in gay-bashing theology that's even more hardcore than the late Jerry Falwell's. Anti-gay talk radio hosts and fundamentalist preachers routinely deliver hateful screeds on the airwaves and from the pulpit.

Ex-Ukrainians affiliated with the Watchmen murdered Satendar Singh, a 26 year gay Indian-American in a park near Sacramento.

But make no mistake about it, scourge Watchmen is a product of the US. One of its founders is former NFL player-turned-h atemonger Rev. Ken Hutcherson. Hutcherson discovered that ministering to a gullible, emotionally confused flock could be quite lucrative, especially after he assumed the persona of a strict father figure who demanded blind allegiance and generous tithing.

Human rights are human rights. There! That is it! The only price of admission is being born homo sapiens! Gay rights, therefore, are human rights, despite what homophobes or hypocritical lawmakers...or demented “men of God” assert.
+9 # BatOutOfHell 2012-07-01 13:56
Well then, Sir Elton, why do you continue an association with Rush Limbaugh, a rabid right wing sociopath who hates America, gays, average folks, and for whom you played music at his wedding?
One would think you wouldn't consort with hypocrites.
If you're so for gay rights, then STOP enabling the right wingnuts here, and across the world. Until then, your words mean NOTHING.
+1 # Dave_s Not Here 2012-07-02 11:06
Hey, give Sir Elton a break. He DID lighten Rush's wallet and that's a good thing.
+2 # carolsj 2012-07-02 12:18
Actually Rush is the hypocrite, having Elton play at his wedding. How can he rave homophobic after that?
+7 # Joeconserve 2012-07-01 14:06
From the American point of view all humans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Beyond that criteria nobody is special.
+13 # tomtom 2012-07-01 14:28
Elton, we Americans were surprised to see you play at one of our loudest homophobes, Rush Limbaugh's wedding. That set America back a few years. But, we still love you.
-19 # TedN 2012-07-01 14:37
In many Muslim countries, including Arab,
African and Indonesia, homosexuality is illegal. Are we going to embargo every country that does not agree with our belief that Gay Rights= Human Rights?
What of democracy and culture and a nations sovereign rights to determine by its people what they consider legal?
+8 # Glen 2012-07-01 15:51
You have a point, Ted, regardless of how distasteful laws and policies can be. It may not be the best attitude or approach to homosexuals, but countries are sovereign, as you say. The U.S. cannot control every aspect of every country.

I'll bet, though, there are rabid supporters of the phobia that would encourage bombing these countries. Heck. They just might also have oil and other natural resources.
+2 # wyrdotter 2012-07-01 16:01
What of it? Any country's people can determine what they consider legal, but they also get to live with the consequences, such as not having the support or the income from countries that disagree. By your very own argument, we have the same sovereign right to decide not to play on the playground with "kids" whose games we find immoral as they do to decide to play those games.
+11 # jwb110 2012-07-01 15:03
The Ukrainians will will make the same mistake that the US did in the beginning of the AIDS Crisis in America. They will deny and surpress and stick their heads in the sand until they find out it is not a "gay" disease. It is a disease that strikes across all divides. The rise in cases of HIV will rise among the "straight" population probably faster than the "gay" population as it did in the US. They'll do too little too late and suffer the consequences of their prejudice. Why do all "Democracies" feel the need to find one group to hate?
+6 # anarchteacher 2012-07-01 15:16

Gay Rights: A Libertarian Approach

This classic pamphlet was written in 1975 by the award-winning historian Ralph Raico.

It presents the exact case Sir Elton John was putting forth in his article.

Gay rights are the rights of human beings who are gay. These natural rights are universal within the human species and are inalienable by the tyrannical actions of the state.

It is the state who has traditionally been the principal enemy of gay persons for millennia.

The latest specific examples of abuse of human rights in the Ukraine Sir Elton singles out are egregious and should be condemned by all who stand for peace, prosperity, liberty, and justice.
+8 # Lisa Moskow 2012-07-01 16:00
Thank you.

Oppression against one is oppression against all.
-17 # brucbaker 2012-07-01 17:14
People may not like it ... People probably should NOT agree with it .. but for a group of people to have the FREEDOM to limit the behaviors and create laws to that effect .. is the opposite end of the spectrum to balance out the PUSH for Gay rights.

For every POSITIVE THERE IS A NEGATIVE. Argue all you like... but For every extremist pushing gay rights the opposite number of that person is created so the UNIVERSE will again find balance.

Gays ... are ... A... MINORITY! THEY live in a world of heterosexuals. Nature may be trying to CURB the over-population of the human race with more gays .. but in the end .. gays will always be the minority.

Life is simple ... if you can't live in that country... go somewhere else. Just look at how humans have migrated all over the world... and you get a CLUE!
+3 # Todd Williams 2012-07-02 10:22
Ah, yes. The Nazi view of the world. Now class, let's substitute Jew for Gay. How about Muslim for Gay? Or try on Christian for Gay. Prejudice cannot be covered up. Predjudice will creep out and be revealed for all its sickness. Yea, let's get all those queers to leave Ukraine and move elsewhere. Oh, they don't want to leave their country? Well then, let's set up special areas for them to live within Ukraine. We could call these places "reservations" or maybe "camps." Sound familiar, brucbaker, you damn gay basher?
+2 # hammermann 2012-07-01 18:18
I must say, the numbers of violent homophobes is very small in Ukraine, although gays remain pretty unpopular. I went to that concert, 4 1/2 hours of Elton + a rejuvinated Queen... and it was magic. Paid for by oligarch Pinchuk- sometimes the scraps they dribble on the people are pretty wonderful.
+7 # btbees 2012-07-01 20:39
Let us remember Matthew Sheppard, died Oct 12, 1998, tortured and murdered in USA for being gay.
+2 # Bigfella 2012-07-01 21:31
From report here it seem that they have a NAZI problem that is being backed by some in the Government. It is a very dangous place for normal people but deadly for those who are different.
+2 # Dave_s Not Here 2012-07-01 21:42
Didn't they learn ANYTHING as a result of German occupation and Russian hegemony in the last century?

My mom's family was from the wrong side of the tracks in the Ukraine back then and, after the German army was through their village twice, none of them remained.

Now they want to do shit like this to themselves? How unbelievably thick they are.
+2 # Cimulia 2012-07-01 23:58
Just a point of information Indonesia does not ban gays - sex is permitted as a free choice for anyone over the age of consent.
0 # RobertMStahl 2012-07-02 06:49
Gary Null on AIDS, Deconstructing the Myth of AIDS (not that science matters)

More recently, House of Numbers, but just as good,
-2 # Todd Williams 2012-07-02 13:07
I have either heard or read somehere that the Nazi death camp guards considered to be the most brutal were Ukranian. Is this true?
+1 # jamal49 2012-07-04 02:29
Perhaps we can convince the American religious right extremists to emigrate en masse to the Ukraine. It seems to be a country more in line with the evangie-fundies ' worldview. Seriously, though, what is happening in the Ukraine is the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church using their power and control to incite their adherents to a bigoted, homophobic frenzy. Sadly, mediocre and immoral Russian politicians are going along with those Churches and the intolerance for LGBTQ people that those Churches promote.

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