From fines to imprisonment: What are penalties for homophobia in different countries?

Author : News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

On December 12, 1991, Ukraine became the first country recognized by the UN in the post-Soviet space to begin the path of decriminalization of homosexual relation
09:31, 26 February 2020

Open source

Recently, Switzerland residents came to a referendum for introducing a law that would punish people for discrimination based on sexual orientation in the country. Many European countries, the US, and some countries of South America envisage punishment for homophobia. In Ukraine, homosexuality is still often condemned, and people of homosexual orientation are attacked. At the same time, we already had precedents for punishing insults of representatives of the LGBT community. But first things first.

Related: Anti-LGBTQ protest action in Kyiv

Switzerland against homophobia

On February 9, Swiss citizens voted in a referendum to introduce a law that would punish discrimination based on sexual orientation in the country. Proponents of the initiative pointed out that Switzerland is significantly behind Europe in terms of LGBT rights. Opponents argued that the new law would restrict freedom of speech.

According to preliminary data, 63.1% of the voters supported the bill, 36.9% voted against. Only in three of the 26 Swiss cantons did the majority of the population turn out to be against such a law. As a punishment measure, it provides for both fines and imprisonment for up to three years.

“The result is a significant sign of support for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. After a clear yes, the LGBT community will use this shift to consistently apply the criminal code and ensure equal rights to marry,” reads the statement by the Pink Cross Swiss LGBT organization.

Related: Group of young people attacked LGBT person with knife in Kyiv

The bill on the legalization of same-sex marriage is currently under consideration in Parliament.

At the end of 2018, the country's parliament approved the expansion of the existing law against discrimination against gay people (previously it protected only against racial discrimination). Then the opponents of innovations collected 50,000 signatures required in the framework of the Swiss system of direct democracy to send the issue to a referendum.

Not only Switzerland

Similar laws punishing homophobia exist in many European countries. So, in 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a verdict on the legality of the prosecution for the propaganda of homophobia. The case concerned appealing the conviction by the Swedish Supreme Court of four men who distributed homophobic leaflets in one of the schools. The ECHR ruled that the prosecution of people who disseminate such abusive material against sexual minorities is legal, and emphasized that such activities that incite hatred are not protected by the right to freedom of expression, and discrimination based on sexual orientation is equally serious as well as discrimination based on race or ethnicity.

Related: UN urges Ukrainian authority to facilitate tolerance toward LGBT

In early February of this year, the Westminster Magistrate Court in London sentenced a 23-year-old man to two months in prison. He was found guilty of the fact that on March 27, last year, standing at a traffic light, he saw a cyclist in a pink lycra uniform and shouted “Oh, gay boy” from his car, after which he spat at the man and disappeared from the scene of the crime. The police tracked down the attacker using a sample of DNA taken from saliva. Nine months after the incident, the offender appeared in court. At the hearing, the judge stated: "Spitting on someone is disgusting in itself, but much worse than it was made out of homophobic motives."

The man asked the court not to send him to prison, claiming that this would aggravate his anxiety disorder and provoke panic attacks. But the judge ignored the attacker's requests, sentencing him to eight weeks in prison.

The brutal gay student murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 provoked the outrage of many people in the United States and other countries and gave rise to a social movement to include sexual orientation and gender identity among the motives for hate crimes. Such laws have been passed in several US states. Corresponding amendments to the national legislation were adopted only in 2009 and signed by President Barack Obama.

Related: 23 countries, EU call on Ukrainians to support LGBT march

In December 2019, an American court found guilty of homophobia and sentenced to 15 years in prison 30-year-old Adolfo Martinez, who burned the flag of the LGBT community. This summer Martinez tore off the rainbow cloth from the United Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa, and went to the Dangerous Curves club, from the outside of which he set fire to the canvas with a flammable liquid. He also threatened to set fire to the institution itself. The intruder was promptly detained. He immediately pleaded guilty.

Last May, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled homophobia a crime. By a decision of 6 out of 11 judges of the Supreme Court of Brazil, homophobia and transphobia were criminalized in the country. Responsibility for crimes motivated by the attitude to different sexual orientations or gender identity of a person can be both individual and collective. Thus, the court will punish for any manifestations of aggression, in particular violence or murder.

Related: Amnesty International summons to investigate assault against LGBT activists

Homophobia in Ukraine

On December 12, 1991, Ukraine became the first country recognized by the UN in the post-Soviet space to begin the path of decriminalization of homosexual relations. However, same-sex marriages in Ukraine are not officially recognized.

Related: LGBT-community attacked in Kyiv

At the same time, representatives of the LGBT community in Ukraine are periodically subjected to convictions and attacks. So, on June 19 of last year in Kyiv, a group of attackers attacked participants in the LGBT movement. It was noted that the attackers tried to knock the victims off their feet, kicked, sprayed pepper gas and verbally abused.

The Ukrainian churches stand against homosexuality as well. For example, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) Epifaniy reported that representatives of the LGBT community will be able to participate in the sacraments (in particular, in the sacrament of the sacrament) if they "repent of their sins, if they correct their mistakes." He has noted that the OCU is unshakable in this matter, because "the church clearly distinguishes where there is sin. We cannot call sin good."

Nevertheless, there is progress in the fight against homophobia in Ukraine. So, in 2019, the prosecutor's office opened a criminal proceeding on the fact of the statements of deputy mayor of Sumy city, Maksym Halytsky, against LGBT people and participants in the “Equality March.”

Related: LGBT rally on Equality March in Kyiv: Major facts

“On the eve of Equality March in support of the LGBT community, one of the deputy mayors of Sumy on his Facebook page expressed his vision of this event, in particular, noted that he would like to see such people in concentration camps. Criminal proceedings have been launched on the fact of such statements,” Larysa Sargan, the former press secretary of the prosecutor general, noted.

According to Sargan, production is open under Part 1 of Art. 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (“Deliberate actions aimed at inciting ethnic, racial or religious hatred and hatred, humiliating national honor and dignity or insulting the feelings of citizens in connection with their beliefs”).

A screenshot of Maksym Halytsky’s Facebook post was published by journalist Yevgeniy Kuzmenko.

Related: Anti-LGBT protesters used 'feces lab' to attack weekend march members in Kyiv

As for the scale of the whole country, during a press marathon in October last year, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he did not intend to legalize prostitution in Ukraine, and with regard to gay people, the head of state emphasized that they were free to choose and the rest should leave them alone.

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