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CO “Legalife-Ukraine” took part in organization of a Human Rights Conference on battling discrimination against vulnerable populations in Ukraine

30 Mar 2020 19:03:21

On March 5, 2020, the first Conference of NGOs entitled “Discrimination against Vulnerable Populations in Ukraine: State Policy and Public Opinion” was held in Kyiv. It was to be the first of a series of public discussions on discrimination against vulnerable groups in Ukraine. The second Conference was scheduled to take place on April 6, 2020, and has been postponed due to the national quarantine. The conference was held on March 5, 2020 by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) in cooperation with Norwegian Refugee Council, Center “Social Action”, CO “Legalife-Ukraine” and International Renaissance Foundation.

General purpose of this Conference series was to formulate a plan of 5 simple steps by the government and society, which would be de facto implemented in 2020-2021 to reduce the level of discrimination against vulnerable populations in Ukraine.

At the first Conference on 5 March 2020, the following Panels were held for discussion:
Panel 1. Respect for the principle of non-discrimination in the context of armed conflict;
Panel 2. Problems of legislative regulation and protection mechanisms in the field of prevention and counteraction to discrimination;
Panel 3. Problems of practice in the exercise of rights and use of services.

The full program of the Conference is available by the link

Olena Semjorkyna, UHHRU Law Enforcement Specialist, Conference moderator:

“The attitude of society towards vulnerable groups is an indicator of respect for human rights in general. This thesis was the basis of the participants’ discussion during the first Conference of Public organizations entitled “Discrimination of Vulnerable Populations in Ukraine: State Policy and Public Opinion”.

The organizers of the Conference set themselves several tasks:
First, to draw the attention of the state authorities to the systematic discrimination of particular groups and to the additional risks that have caused discrimination against people in Ukraine. This issue was addressed by Panel 1 “Compliance with the principle of non-discrimination in the context of armed conflict”.
Second, to consolidate the activities of non-governmental organizations and human rights activists.

Third, to continue and stimulate further public discussion on unpopular topics. For example, discrimination against sex workers and the urgent need to stop state intervention in voluntary sexual relations between adult citizens. We discussed the impact of different legislative approaches on discrimination against sex workers and acceptable models of regulating sex work in Ukraine as a way of ensuring non-discrimination of sex workers by the State during the Panel 2 “Problems of legislative regulation and protection mechanisms in the field of prevention and counteraction to discrimination”.

Such conferences and other forms of public events for public discussion should be the grounds for a professional frank discussion of non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders and activists and public authorities. The results of such discussions, in turn, should be reflected in the actions/decisions of the state. Indeed, it is the state that has positive (security and protection) and negative (respect and non-interference) human rights obligations.

Olena Semjorkyna (UHHRU) and Nataliia Isaieva (CO “Legalife-Ukraine”)

Nataliia Isaieva, director of CO “Legalife-Ukraine”:

“It was important for us to join the organization of this Conference, because in our opinion the problem of discrimination of vulnerable groups in Ukraine is not the focus of attention of the authorities and national media today. However, the solution to this unpopular issue should prove the development of a new government and civil society in the country.

At the conference, we once again discussed examples of various legislative approaches to regulating sex work in Ukraine and again emphasized a decriminalizing approach to sex work as one that should address the stigma and discrimination of sex workers at the national level.

Topic: How Do Different Legislative Approaches Affect Sex Worker Discrimination?

Recommendations from BO «Legaleif-Ukraine» regarding the new Sex Work Regulation Act:

According to the sex workers’ community of Ukraine, it should contain the following provisions:
1. Sex work – for adults only;
2. An able person may engage in sex work;
3. Sex work can be done independently or with other sex workers;

4. The activities of sex workers may be organized by a manager whose activities must be licensed; sex workers must have no dependence on the manager, manager must be the technical staff for the organization of space and security;
5. A sex worker can be registered as an individual entrepreneur in order to pay taxes and have appropriate social guarantees, along with other entrepreneurs.

Also, in our opinion the State may regulate:
1. Places where sex services can be provided;
2. Management which deals with sex workers;
3. The work of law enforcement agencies;
4. Work of social workers;
5. Restrictions on the Advertising of Sex Services.

The main aim: to abolish the Legislative rudiment – the administrative responsibility for sex work (Article 181-1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses).