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Declaration of the International Conference "Our world: equality and cooperation"
(Kiev, Ukraine, October 19-21, 2000)

At present the countries of Eastern Europe have embarked on the path of constructing democratic societities where human and civil rights are of the highest value, and their observance is an inalienable task of a state. Either our countries will set about effecting decisive and full-scale reforms, or they will be stuck in the position of the "third world" states. Though as recently as ten years ago the human rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals were regarded as an issue of controversy, today a society, claiming to be called democratic and aware of the recent past, cannot conscionably turn its back on homosexual issues.

The conference gathered representatives of lesbian&gay, human rights, and other organizations from nine countries of Eastern Europe. They all believe that the issues of achieving equality and protection of homosexuals' interests are and belong among the topical issues in the general process of democratization. Today many political and public figures still view the problems of gays and lesbians as insignificant. We declare that such problems do exist and have to be solved. Neglect of the rights of any social group undermines the idea of democracy and of equality itself.

The record of politicians making public homophobic remarks in Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland and Latvia, while also making statements about their commitment to democratic values, shows them to be particularly inept leaders, out of step with rights-awareness. The mass media even in the year 2000 often run indecorous and abusive materials about people with non-traditional sexual preferences. Some religious figures of Russia, Romania, Belarus, Moldova and Poland go public with sweeping accusations and call for discrimination against lesbians and gays. State structures often obstruct the activity of gay human rights organizations. Law-enforcement authorities lack basic procedures and programs to enforce protection of citizens from prosecution on the grounds of sexuality. As a result young lesbians and gays find themselves in an information vacuum, face to face with their problems and without fair, impartial police support, or an agreed understanding that they have a right to it.

A positive development is that over the last few years all the countries of Eastern Europe have repealed the laws that banned homosexual relations. Some countries introduced the ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. In Czech Republic, Slovenia and Latvia the bill drafts concerning same-sex registered partnership are under discussion. In Hungary the ruling of the Constitutional Court equated the rights of same-sex couples with the rights of common law unmarried partners.

Authoritative international organizations determine standards in the sphere of human rights. Almost all countries of our region are members of the Council of Europe, or are willing to join it. The Amsterdam agreement of the member states of the European Union points out the necessity of protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation on the international level. The recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe called on governments to take measures in the struggle with homophobia, and to place sexual orientation discrimination on the same footing with such phenomena as discrimination based on religious convictions or racial background.

We call on the society, authorities and political forces of our countries for tolerance, understanding and mutual support. We are willing to establish cooperation with everyone who strives to construct a new democratic society, for we are certain that this is our common goal. We call for hate-free and prejudice-free attitudes regarding the problems of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals, so like the problems of any social group. We do not demand special attitude and special rights. We just expect genuine equality and the clear elimination of all existing written or practiced limitations on our consitutional rights. We hope this international conference will attract public attention to our problems, and that it will be instrumental in their solutions.

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