Kazakhstan: Reject Anti-LGBT “Propaganda” Law

April 20, 2015

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev  (Sean Gallup/Getty Images))
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Sean Gallup/Getty Images))

Following in the steps of Russia’s draconian 2013 anti-LGBT law, Kazakhstan’s Senate has passed a similar law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation.”

This new legislation – the Law on the Protection of Children from Information Harming their Health and Development – now awaits President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s signature.

Amnesty International calls on President Nazarbayev to reject this discriminatory law. While the legislation’s complete text has not been made available to the public, and while Kazakhstani authorities have not responded to Amnesty International’s request for a copy of the full law, the local media have quoted members of Parliament referring to provisions that clearly discriminate against LGBT people in Kazakhstan.

From those reports, it is evident that if the law is signed, it would violate Kazakhstan’s international obligations to guarantee the fundamental human rights to freedom of expression and to prevent any discrimination on the basis of sex and other related bases, including sexual orientation or gender identity. The law would also fuel anti-LGBT stigma, increasing the risk of homophobic and transphobic discrimination and violence.

With its large ethnic Russian population dating to its history as a Soviet republic and as a core member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, Kazakhstan’s political, legal, and cultural developments frequently follow those in Russia. The potentially sweeping references to “propaganda” in Kazakhstan’s pending legislation may lead to restrictions on a wide range of speech and expression – human rights violations already abundant in the wake of Vladimir Putin signing Russia’s own anti-LGBT “propaganda” law.

This threat to Kazakhstan’s LGBT community and allies is part and parcel of a broad human rights crisis that includes the torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners, the jailing and fining of peaceful protestors, the detention of those practicing religions outside of state control, and the closing and blocking of independent print and social media. As in Russia, Kazakhstan has mandated that NGOs register with the government, and authorities enjoy wide discretion to deny such status and close down groups for alleged, often minor violations of the law. Last year – setting the stage for the anti-LGBT “propaganda law” – the government introduced criminal charges for “spreading false information.”

Kazakhstan’s crackdown on civil society and freedom of expression explicitly condones homophobia. Last October, an Almaty court awarded 34 million tenge (US$187,000) in damages against a Kazakhstani advertising agency for designing a poster featuring the nation’s legendary composer, Sagyrbauly Kurmangazy, passionately kissing iconic Russian poet Aleksander Pushkin.

The potent combination of legal discrimination and street homophobia seen over the past few years in Kazakhstan’s northern neighbor is now brewing as well in the Central Asian giant. Last year, the Bolashok (“Future”) nationalist movement not only called for legislation to outlaw so-called LGBT “propaganda” but also for LGBT Kazakhstanis to be banned from serving in either the military or public office. In calling for anti-LGBT legislation, Bolashok’s leader, Dauren Babamuratov, declared that “I think it is very easy to identify a gay person by his or her DNA. A blood test can show the presence of degeneratism in a person.”

This anti-LGBT climate makes it especially disturbing that the pending Law on the Protection of Children, under the guise of limiting media considered harmful to minors, seeks to restrict accurate information about sexual orientation. In fact, the health and development of Kazakhstan’s LGBT youth would be far better protected by laws strengthening fundamental human rights, including the rights to expression and assembly. At a bare minimum, President Nazarbayev should reject this discriminatory law immediately.

Join with Amnesty International and write immediately to President Nursultan Nazarbayev

  • to urge him to reject all draft legislation (including the Law on Child Protection) and amendments that promote restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, real or perceived.
  • to call on him to ensure that any further draft legislation fully comply with Kazakhstan’s international human rights obligations
  • to ask him to guarantee the transparency of Kazakhstan’s legislative process.

Write today to defend human rights and stand in solidarity with Kazakhstan’s LGBT community!