Three leading gay and lesbian organisations in the Ukraine have formed the Union of Gay Organisations of Ukraine (UGOU).

The groups hope to unite activists in three main areas: advocating rights and freedoms of gay people, mobilising the gay community and improving the effectiveness of HIV-infection prevention among homosexuals.

The Gay Alliance, Gay Alliance Cerkasy, and Nash Mir Gay & Lesbian Centre will now provide an even wider range of information, advocacy, social, and health protection services.

The Union also plans to support to young gay organisations and educate gay activists.

UGOU is not a new legal entity but is founded on the basis of mutual agreement to cooperate.

This will focus funds on programme activities and minimise administrative expenses.

The Union will be open to other officially registered LGBT organisations.

While the Ukraine continues to stress its European credentials and seek EU membership, there are questions over its commitment to human rights.

MPs from the governing party have spoken out about “propaganda and expansion of homosexuality in the country form a threat to national security, contradict national interests and undermine the authority of rights and freedoms of human being and family.”

The Ukranian parliament’s Committee on the Issues of Freedom of Speech has attacked the “increasing propaganda” about gay and lesbian issues.

“Such a situation obliges organs of state power to adopt determined and urgent steps for stopping popularisation of homosexualism, lesbianism, other sexual perversions, which do not correspond to moral principles of the society,” the committee reported.

Since 1991 Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union, has had an equal age of consent and homosexuality was decriminalised at that time.

However, there are no specific protections for LGBT minorities, and the country is generally dominated by the Orthodox church and is deeply socially conservative.

Only 15% of the population are supportive of the existence of gay couples.