The situation with LGBT rights in Ukraine is gradually getting better. Just days ago Ukraine held its biggest (and potentially safest) equality march in history and activists are noting progress in reducing nationwide discrimination too.
One sign of change is the latest reform in education, aimed at eliminating discrimination from government-funded textbooks. In new textbooks the word “parents” may be replaced by “relatives” in assignments like “Talk to your parents about where it is safe to play.” Despite the fact that this reform is not specifically targeted at fighting homophobia, it promotes inclusion to better reflect the realities in which many Ukrainian children grow up today. Nearly 40% are raised by a single parent or without parents around at all, states the Ministry of Education.
But it seems like not everyone is welcoming these anti-discrimination reforms. One of the most vocal protests came from Hanna Turchynova – a dean at the Dragomanov Pedagogical University, who also happens to be the wife of Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine’s secretary of National Security and Defense Council. Some may remember Turchynov as the Acting President of Ukraine during the nine-month period following the Euromaidan revolution.
In a recently published column titled “Homo-dictatorship, Part 1: How to Corrupt Children”, Turchynova claimed that the new anti-discrimination recommendations impose harmful views on children, threatening their orientation toward traditional heterosexual family values. Days after publishing the post, Turchynova came to Hromadske to explain her views but her comments caused further public outrage and even a call for her dismissal.
“We, the representatives of Ukrainian human rights organizations, express our outrage at the homophobic and discriminative statements made by Hanna Turchynova,” reads an open letter signed by dozens of human rights groups in Ukraine. “We are convinced that a person who is responsible for educating future teachers needs to understand what the consequences of spreading discriminative rhetoric are, as well as respect human dignity and human rights values.”
The statement also mentions the need for a “disciplinary measure in the form of [Turchynova’s] dismissal” and efforts to avoid similar incidents in the future.
What Turchynova Said
“School textbooks that follow anti-discrimination regulations could change the sexual orientations of children,” Turchynova told Hromadske in an interview published June 16.
She believes that the changes proposed to make school textbooks represent a world including different kinds of people and families are dangerous. “The concept of gender is blurred, moral concepts are blurred, and any state relies on these as a foundation. As Aristotle said, the family is the foundation of the state,” she said.
Photo credit: Ilya Antonets/HROMADSKE
Turchynova took special offense with the suggestion to replace the word “parents” with “relatives,” explaining: “This is propaganda of gender politics, propaganda of the LGBT community. Its representatives understand that going out on the streets once a year, running around Kyiv and waving flags around is not enough. So they have to influence an entire generation of children to buy into this propaganda, to see it as normal. The LGBT community’s ultimate goal is to adopt children.”
The pedagogical university dean considers demonstrating traditional heterosexual nuclear families in textbooks a matter of upholding children’s rights. “Children have the right to see relationships between men and women so that when they grow up, they can have their own families and give birth to children,” she said.
Blurring notions of what marriage is and what a family is in children’s textbooks, Turchynova believes, is an attempt to overthrow heterosexuality as such. She elaborates, “Marriages are an ethical and moral norm for any potential state. If we destroy the family, we destroy the country. LGBT people do not reproduce, so they need new flesh and blood. They understand that they cannot do anything other than tell children from an early age that this is absolutely normal.”
Apart from the statement cited earlier, several activists have also expressed their disapproval of Turchynova’s views.
Zoya Zvyniatskivska, a co-founder of NGO Batkivskyi Kontrol (Parental Control), told Hromadske that she felt anxious seeing “a person who works in higher education” express such “non-scientific theses and illogical statements.”
“I know for sure that you can’t change a person’s sexual orientation through textbooks, but it’s quite easy to fill people’s heads with nonsense through lectures,” Zvyniatskivska said.
Meanwhile, two representatives of the Ukrainian Ministry of Education have also shared their condemnation.
Hanna Turchynova is a dean at the National Dragomanov Pedagogical University in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo credit: Ilya Antonets / HROMADSKE
“The examples that Mrs. Turchynova gives in her column on ‘homo-dictatorship’ have nothing to do with gender ideology,” said Ivanna Kobernyk, an adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Education and Science. “Following her own logic, she would not have the opportunity to work as a university dean, as by her logic, her place is in the kitchen.”
While another adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Education, Olena Malakhova, stated that the anti-discrimination analysis is “not about gender” at all.
“There is nothing more to this analysis than what is in the laws of Ukraine, regardless of how someone may interpret it,” Malakhova said.
/By Larissa Babij and Maria Romanenko