ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION IN UKRAINE:
short history overview and views of the Coalition for Combating Discrimination
It is of utmost importance for each person – to feel that s/he has the same rights as others in his/her country. In order to achieve this, Art. 24 of the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees equality before the law and prohibition of discrimination for everyone. But the constitutional norm is not enough, as there should be a specific legislation which envisages mechanisms of citizens’ protection from discrimination. There were few times in 21 years of Ukrainian independence when an issue of drafting such legislation was raised; but until 2012 no special law was adopted – despite significant public need and numerous recommendations.
The issue of anti-discrimination legislation became discussed again when a document called “EU-Ukraine Visa Dialogue – Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation” was signed in 2010. One of the main Plan’s points was put as follows: “Adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, as recommended by UN and Council of Europe monitoring bodies, to ensure effective protection against discrimination”. Such a favourable conjuncture made it possible to raise an issue of puting comprehensive anti-discrimination law back on the agenda of the Ukrainian government.
Civil society’s activity in the area of combating and protection from discrimination gained momentum since the foundation of the Coalition for Combating Discrimination in Ukraine (CCD). This all-Ukrainian non-governmental civic human rights initiative was founded by Ukrainian non-governmental organizations signing a special Memorandum http://www.antidi.org.ua/en/memorandum/ on 5 April 2011.
CCD activity is aimed at the real ensuring of the civic equality principle for all persons in Ukraine, disregarding specific social or individual traits; development, enlargement and improvement of human rights and liberties in Ukraine; counteraction against attempts to introduce unjust limitations of rights for certain groups of citizens; uprooting of such a phenomenon as discrimination from the social life. As of 1 October 2012, 34 organizations were CCD members.
On 5 June 2012 Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (the Ukrainian Parliament) of the VI convocation adopted in the first reading, as a basis, the draft Law of Ukraine “On the principles of prevention and combating discrimination in Ukraine” (registration no. 10468), introduced by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on 14 May 2012. Unfortunately, while this draft law was designed by the government (and specifically – by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine), many fundamental aspects of the anti-discrimination legislation, proposed and insisted upon by the CCD and other civil society representatives, were not taken into account.
On 6 September 2012 Verkhovna Rada approved the draft law in question in the second hearing, and on 28 September it was signed by the President. After Verkhovna Rada adopted the draft law, the CCD issued a statement arguing that the Law in its current form should not be signed, as it contains too many shortcomings and faults. The Coalition suggested that the President of Ukraine sends this piece of legislation back to the parliament with corrections, emphasizing the Law’s importance for the prospects of signing the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. However, on 4 October the Law of Ukraine “On the principles of prevention and combating discrimination in Ukraine” came into force.
Currently the CCD establishes cooperation with the state authorities and puts its efforts into advocating for changes to the law in question and other pieces of legislation. These changes, in particular, should be aimed at the following: bringing the definition of discrimination and its types into line with international human rights standards; expansion of the anti-discrimination grounds’ list (in particular, inclusion of different vulnerable groups into it); setting up a real mechanism protecting individuals and legal entities from discrimination in Ukraine; clear, defined by the legislation, assignment of the state authorities’ responsibilities in the area of combating discrimination; provision to the civic associations of a right to initiate the court proceedings in public interests in case the victim is absent, as well as the requirement of the shared proof; drafting of the detailed set of changes to the legislation of Ukraine.