Analysis of the discussion “What are the prospects for decriminalizing sex work, medical cannabis use and HIV status?” which took place in the framework of the IV National Human Rights Non-Conference

On December 10, 2019, the first workshop of Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union was held within the framework of the IV National Human Rights Non-Conference on the topic: “What are the prospects for decriminalization of sex work, medical cannabis use and HIV status?”


The topics for public discussion were:

  1. Decriminalization of HIV: current situation and prospects for solving the problem.
  2. Decriminalization of sex work in 2020 as a mechanism to protect human rights of sex workers.
  3. Decriminalization the use of medical cannabis is one of the challenges of civil society.

Also in the framework of discussion,  UHHRU network of public reception offices reported about its activities  on the provision of legal assistance and  chat-bot for UHHRU legal assistance to vulnerable groups was presented. The report was prepared by the Head of UHHRU network of public reception offices, Natalia Kozarenko.

Speakers at the workshop were:

Olena Stryzhak, Chairman of the Board of CO “Positive women”, with a report on advocacy for changes in the Ukrainian legislation regarding the decriminalization of HIV status;

Natalia Isaeva, Director of Legalife-Ukraine, explained the nuances of the legislative regulation of sex work in Ukraine, as well as the rationale for the negative position of the community of sex workers in relation to plans to introduce a “Nordic model” in Ukraine to combat the final demand;

Nazariy Sovsun, Chairman of the NGO “Counterculture”, with a report on the current situation with changes in legislation to decriminalize the use of medical cannabis.

The discussion was attended by many activists and human rights defenders, among whom was the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Women’s AIDS Network Svitlana Moroz.

Svitlana Moroz, Olena Semyorkina, Mariya Ignatushina (“100%Life” network) and Natalia Isaeva

Olena Semyorkina, UHHRU legal expert, who was the speaker and moderator of this workshop, prepared an analytical summary of the discussion, which lasted almost two hours.

Olena Semyorkina (UHHRU): “In the workshop “What are the prospects for decriminalization of sex work, use of medical cannabis and HIV status?” colleagues together recalled the long history of promoting initiatives to revoke administrative responsibility for prostitution and to decriminalize sex workers’ working together (working together is not pimping). Human trafficking crimes, crimes against sexual freedom and sexual integrity and intimate relationships of capable adults, at their own consent, should be clearly distinguished. The state should not interfere in the latter.

For almost three years, the struggle for the abolition of criminal liability for conscious infection with the immunodeficiency virus continues, because during this time, methods for preventing the transmission of HIV infection from parents to the future child have already been developed and regulated by normative legal acts, successful ART practices have been introduced to reduce the viral load to “indefinite”. Recent advances also protect the partners of a HIV-positive person from contracting the virus. Therefore, the state simply has to eliminate conflicts in the legislation and practice of its application.

There is no progress in promoting the strategic paradigm of state drug policy, which is defined as the need for a comprehensive transition from the punitive, criminal-legal direction of anti-drug measures to the treatment and prevention as the most fruitful in the context of overcoming drug addiction. The process is constantly hampered by the National Police of Ukraine for the disagreement with the amendments to Order of MOH of Ukraine No. 188 dated 01.08.2000 “On approving tables of small, large and extra large sizes of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors in illicit circulation” in terms of increasing the size of individual substances included in tables, with a view to bringing their size to the recommendations of the International Committee on Drug Control of the UN and international best practice. Changes to this order have already passed the necessary expertise, have calculations and even several times filed with the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine for state registration. But now this work is completely stopped.

Not amending the order is the first and foremost sign of the potential repressive policies the state is beginning to apply to people with drug addiction. Such people will continue to be responsible, in fact, for the manifestations of the disease, which will result in the continuation of the practice of bringing them to criminal responsibility for the possession of a small amount of psychoactive substances (which a person has with him for his own use).”

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union implements the project “Development of the legal network for protection of the people living with HIV/AIDS, representatives of key PLHIV communities and persons ill with TB” with the financial support of the Charitable organization “All-Ukrainian Network of the People Living with HIV/AIDS” in the framework of implementation of the project “Releasing the Burden of TB and HIV infection through creation of the open access to timely and quality diagnostics and treatment of the TB and its resistant forms, expanding evidence based prevention, diagnostic and treatment of HIV infection, and creation of stable and sustainable health protection systems”, which is implemented with the financial support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

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