Why Ukrainian politicians try to save traditional values

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Nihil novum sub sole: from time to time Ukrainian politicians promote the issue of the "traditional family value"
23:21, 12 March 2019


Nihil novum sub sole: from time to time Ukrainian politicians promote the issue of the "traditional family values." From time to time, Ukrainian MPs are trying to prohibit abortions, punish LGB individuals, and adopt a single declarative decree on the protection of the family. Until now, the authors of such projects have been on the sidelines, but over the past year or two, traditionalists have manifested themselves at the highest levels of power – right up to the country's president.

What are traditional family values?

This question is not easy to answer. March 8, a march of women’s rights took place in Kyiv. Its opponents came to the rally under the slogan "God! Motherland! Patriarchate!" so perhaps this triad is the basis for traditionalism? One of the posters held by the followers of this movement contained the following statement: "Modern feminism disfigures God’s image of a woman." The word "god" makes it possible to name at least one component of the traditional values – faith. Faith combined with patriarchy adds a second component – the dominance of a man over a woman in the biblical understanding of the word. How relevant is this idea in the 21st century?

The traditionalism notion also includes Motherland that is, patriotism. All atheists and agnostics, as well as all those who advocate the synergy of a man and a woman (equality of the sexes), are thus denied the right to be considered patriots. And the monopoly on morality is close to the church.

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It is wrong to believe that traditional values are the denial of LGBT people. The program of traditionalists is much wider. The traditionalists have invented the term “neo-Marxism” to mark everything that opposes them. Ironically, Kateryna Levchenko, Commissioner for Gender Policy, comments ironically that for them it is most likely a synonym for all the bad things.

Plop til you drop

On February 6, the first reading a draft decree "On measures to ensure the protection of family values and the institution of the family in Ukraine" took place in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada. This document has been registered in June 2018. The document provides for the development of a state family policy strategy. And - no less important - spending from the state budget on social advertising and other promotion of the Strategy.

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The author of the idea is Pavlo Unguryan, MP from the National Front party. He is also the author of draft law No. 0945, which was proposed to introduce criminal liability "for the importation, production, and distribution of works propagating homosexuality" with a penalty of imprisonment for a term of three to five years. He also appealed to the Kyiv city authorities to ban the Equality March, create a Bible study group in the Verkhovna Rada, write another draft law on pronouncing "Our Father" in parliament, the requirement to remove the words "gender-related" from the bill on domestic violence.

MP Unguryan can be considered the engine of traditionalism; he is not alone in this “mission.” Opposition MP Oksana Bilozir (who also co-authored the “Our Father” bill) is an active fighter for the family values. On her initiative, an inter-factional association “Women's Initiatives for Family Values” was created in the parliament.

Abortions are another popular topic among the lawmakers, the last time it was touched by MP from Bloc of Petro Poroshenko Dmytro Holubov (also known as the founder of the Internet Party of Ukraine). But this is not the first and, of course, not the last similar initiative.

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At the same time, not only MPs are active supporters of traditional values. In particular, Ukraine’s head of National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov and his wife Anna oftern promote the "family-protective" policy. President Petro Poroshenko also demonstrates certain activity in this regard.

The Ukrainian nuclear family in its classic format (that is, a heterosexual couple with 0-2 children) is going through really bad times. The divorce rate is 52% in relation to marriages. 10% of marriages break up in the first year of family life. Every fifth child is born from a single mother. The amount of alimony paid in 2018 is 164 million USD. So there are no reasons to blame gays and lesbians for this, but rather the country’s socio-economic conditions are the answer. The war in the east also plays a significant role in the total social uncertainty.

 In the autumn of 2019, Ukraine will hold parliamentary elections. When Pavlo Unguryan says that the issue of the traditional values unites politicians, he is absolutely right.

After hearing from the social scientists that young people are betting on Volodymyr Zelensky and his party, the old-school politicians change their orientations, trying to please the middle and older generations.


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At the same time, most politicians do not notice that they are creating Russian analog of “spiritual staples” in Ukraine. After all, Russia is positioning itself as a defender of public morality. As for the formalization of such a status, Moscow has adopted and approved by Putin the “Doctrine of National Security,” where “traditional spiritual and moral values” have a prominent place. However, this is not about Russia, but about the whole range of authoritarian regimes - from fascism to communism - where the obsession with ideological purity and the prevalence of public over personal never led to leadership and a high quality of life.

The other side of the gender

Ukraine suffered the first image losses from the activity of traditionalists as early as at the end of 2017 after the Parliament adopted the law on Preventing and Countering Domestic Violence. The document was re-edited, and references to “sexual orientation”, “gender stereotypes” and “gender-based violence” were excluded. The law can no longer be considered the implementation of the Istanbul Convention on the Prevention of Violence against Women.

The traditionalists won in the dispute over the draft law, they began to argue that the original wording of the law contradicted the "Christian values," professed by Ukraine. As a result, Natalya Fedorovych, Deputy Minister of Social Policy, who presented the draft law in the parliament, met the demands of the deputies and said that the deadlines that became a stumbling block would be excluded from the text adopted as the basis. The inability of the ministry to defend key moments provoked criticism from the vice speaker Iryna Gerashchenko.

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More than a year has passed, and the traditionalists have strengthened their positions, at the same time extending the list of the "reforms" they are trying to implement. In particular, Oleksandr Turchynov (whose official duties do not include such initiatives) suggests replacing the term "gender" with "sex" and abandoning the Istanbul Convention altogether. The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union tried to draw the attention of PM Volodymyr Groysman to Turchynov’s actions, but it did not succeed. And when the far-right also demanded the dismissal of Kateryna Levchenko and the elimination of the gender commissioner, Amnesty International Ukraine also condemned such statements.

However, all this has the effect of talking to a brick wall. The idea, initiated “from above,” goes down to the low layers, where it finds the basis for rooting. And now the regional councils (primarily of Western Ukraine)  demand to ban "the propaganda of homosexuality" instead of dealing with the problems of local self-government. Strengthening religious prejudices and social infantilism, an obvious decrease in the intellectual level of local and central authorities create additional tension in society, which is already torn apart by various contradictions.

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