Lawmakers vote on land sale reform during a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv on Nov. 13, 2019.Photo by Kostyantyn Chernichkin
Against a backdrop of political friction and rifts, a majority of Ukrainian lawmakers have come together over what they argue is a need for the country to promote conservative family values.
Over 300 members of the 424-seat Ukrainian parliament have signed up to an interfactional association called “Values. Dignity. Motherland.”
The group has declared that its mission is to adopt laws to protect family values, popularize conservatism in Ukraine, and “resist attempts to undermine natural law for the sake of political trends.”
Specifically, the conservative caucus of lawmakers wants to tackle demographic issues and so-called “social evils” such as high divorce rates, abandonment of children, and abortion, Sviatoslav Yurash, an MP and leading founder of the group told the Kyiv Post.
“We understand that to tackle those social evils we need to cooperate with institutions that work with those groups (of the society). Ukrainian churches are by far the biggest social care provider,” he said.
“Life of the unborn should be discussed more seriously in Ukraine,” he added later.
In his words, supporting family values means promoting family cohesion, childcare, and family-building.
The idea for such a union of lawmakers in the legislature, he said, has been driven by increasing global debate over family values and marriage rights, as well as the clash between liberalism and conservatism.
“Various groups that are trying to claim legitimacy from some Western institutions claim that there is a fundamental consensus globally, and we have to get on with it, as if there is no other point of view,” Yurash said. “There is a very strong, very structured conservative point of view in the West. And it’s very important that this point is also transmitted into Ukraine.”
The public announcement of the association has stirred controversy online, drawing supporters of the idea as well as fervent opponents.
The Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine, a Ukrainian civil society organization, condemned the newly formed association in Ukraine’s Rada and said its legislative plans were anti-constitutional, as well as threatening to the civil rights of Ukrainian citizens.
Ukrainian law and the country’s constitution guarantees its citizens equality and protection against discrimination on any grounds including sex, age, and marital status.
“The concepts of family and family values are subjective, and individuals define them in line with their personal beliefs,” the statement read. “Each family, like each person, is unique and therefore deserves respect and must be protected from any regulatory interference by the state.”
In response to criticism that some of the rhetoric of the association might be viewed as anti-feminist or limiting the rights of LGBT communities, Yurash said they are open to constructive dialogue.
“We are ready to talk and work with groups in our society that have different views on the issues. My job is to find points of agreement and not multiply our divide,” Yurash said.
Yurash is the youngest member of the Ukrainian parliament. He was elected at the age of 23 on the ticket of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party which holds the majority seats.
President Zelensky himself has championed some liberal ideas and supported diversity in Ukraine. He has also advocated for building a common Ukrainian national identity regardless of language, ethnicity, religion, or region.
During his press-marathon in October 2019, he responded to a heckling homophobic question: “We live in an open society where every person chooses their language, religion, and sexual orientation. Leave those people alone, please!”
(C)KIYV POST 2020