Target: Members of the European Commission
Goal: Persuade the government of Ukraine to abandon anti-gay censorship legislation and ensure freedom of expression for all
Since August 2012, the National Expert Commission for Protecting Public Morality in Ukraine has tried to ban the cartoon “SpongeBob Squarepants” because of its alleged threats to the well-being of children. The Commission is acting in response to a right-wing Catholic website’s claim that cartoon figures like SpongeBob “promote homosexuality”, and are part of a “large-scale experiment on Ukrainian children…to create criminals and perverts.”
This exemplifies a bigger problem – and a potentially harsh reality in Ukraine, where the Parliament last year drafted a bill (number 8711) to criminalize gay rights propaganda: supporting LGBT rights could lead to fines, and up to five years’ imprisonment. The European Union publicly urged Ukraine not to adopt the bill. Commendably, they did not stop there. Recently, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning bill 8711 and called on the Ukraine Parliament to reject it, since it breaches the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – both of which Ukraine has ratified.
Although Ukraine is not a member, the EU has stated that passing bill 8711 could jeopardize future Ukraine-EU cooperation, such as the ongoing discussions to allow visa-free access for Ukrainians to the EU member states. All European foreign ministers would sign off on such an agreement, and the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs has made known that the Netherlands would veto a visa agreement should bill 8711 pass.
Quite apart from the fact that the position of the Ukraine Morality Commission towards homosexuals is in direct conflict with the principles of the above-mentioned human rights conventions, the grounds on which they are seeking to ban SpongeBob border on the ridiculous: he has a large gay fanbase, he takes boating lessons from a teacher named Mrs. Puff (a possible euphemism for a gay man), and SpongeBob frequently holds hands with his best friend Patrick – a starfish!
Regardless of the sexual orientation of this cartoon sponge, the issue at stake is not limited to cartoons; it is about freedom of expression, and fighting censorship. The European Commission is helping to fight this fight, and should be commended for it. Now we ask you to sign this petition, to encourage the EU to stand firm against homophobic censorship–and of course, to save SpongeBob in Ukraine.
Dear members of the European Commission,
Thank you for taking a stand against homophobic censorship in Ukraine. We have seen a scary development of a similar nature in other places, like Russia, and we cannot let Bill 8711 in the Ukraine become law. The LGBT community has become increasingly targeted in many parts of the world, and the European Union should serve as a beacon of hope for ending these injustices.
You have done a great job at making the Ukraine government know that you will not let such legislation go unnoticed, or without repercussions. Hopefully, the resolution and public announcements you made will be enough to make Ukraine abandon its plans of legitimizing censorship and restricting freedom of expression. But if they are not, I encourage you to take further action, and continue to speak out, loudly and clearly. A European Union that supports human rights supports LGBT rights.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Camerakarrie via Flickr