Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday took a first step toward making the promotion of homosexuality a criminal offence punishable by prison despite appeals from local and foreign human-rights groups, who said the move was discriminatory.
The draft law, which passed the first of two readings, does not clearly define what it means by the "promotion of homosexuality" but says it is a threat to national security.
If the law is enacted – something that would also require President Viktor Yanukovich to sign off on it – Ukraine's criminal code would be amended to punish anyone convicted of importing, producing or spreading "works that promote homosexuality" with jail terms of up to five years.
Such legislation would be likely to further strain Ukraine's relations with the European Union, which has shelved a landmark association agreement with Kiev over concerns about a seven-year prison sentence handed down to opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
However, opinion polls suggest the law would be popular with voters ahead of an Oct. 28 parliamentary election.
Homosexuality itself has been legal in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union, of which it was part, in 1991.
But a 2011 poll conducted by the Gorshenin Institute, a local think tank, showed that 78 per cent of Ukrainians viewed homosexuality negatively, making a law against its promotion a potentially useful tool in the election campaign.