Ukraine’s Parliament has made further steps towards passing a significant anti-gay law, which would effectively act as a gag for any activity or speech “promoting homosexuality”.

The law that appears to mirror similar actions taken in Russia in recent months seeks to criminalise any action taken to portray homosexuality in a positive light. People found guilty could be jailed for up to five years under the draft law.

Proponents of the law see any promotion of gay rights or “lifestyle” as a threat to national security, saying they believe there’s a link to the spread of HIV.

“The spread of homosexuality constitutes a threat to national security as it leads to an HIV/AIDS epidemic and also destroys the institute of family and can trigger a demographic crisis,” the law’s authors said in a note attached to the legislation.

The gag appears to have support in opinion polls but critics warn that the law would harm Ukrainian relations with the EU.

“Ukraine has set itself on a collision course with the rest of Europe. This law is not only backward-looking; it is purely anti-democratic, informed by nothing else than prejudice, and fully disrespects Ukraine’s legal obligations,” EU LGBT Intergroup co-president Ulrike Lunacek said in a statement.

“I expected more from my Ukrainian colleagues, but in pre-election times, it is easy to score cheap points by witch-hunting the LGBT community. This is the 21st century, and diversity exists in all our societies.”

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