GENEVA: UN human rights experts on Friday condemned the adoption of a "clearly discriminatory" draft law against homosexuals by Ukraine's parliament and called on it to "rectify" the situation.
"We regret that on October 2 the parliament of Ukraine adopted at first reading draft law 8711 which criminalises any reference to homosexuality in the media or public domain," Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva.
If adopted, Colville added, the legislation "could result in fines or prison terms for up to five years."
The proposal could also "undermine the rights to health and equality before the law," he said, by introducing anti-homosexuality amendments into four existing laws as well as Ukraine's criminal code.
The law, which must be ratified at the end of the month, "is clearly discriminatory and runs counter to Ukraine's commitments to freedom of expression and information," Colville said.
Welcoming a statement by the Ukraine ombudsman about "possible abuses" associated with the draft legislation, Colville encouraged Ukraine to strengthen recently passed equality laws by making "explicit reference to sexual orientation and gender identity as possible grounds for discrimination."
The UN spokesman speculated that the draft law might not pass in its current form since Ukraine's foreign affairs ministry had said the parliament would "take into account Ukraine's international obligations to protect minority rights."
Colville also urged the new parliament when it is elected at the end of the month "to rectify the situation" when the draft law gets its second reading, echoing calls by Amnesty International which also blasted the proposal as "discriminatory".
The UN reaction follows comments by the speaker of Ukraine's parliament, Volodymyr Litvine, who on Wednesday defended the draft proposal, saying that gay and lesbian sex should be limited to a "small number of people."