Human Rights First Urges Rejection of Kyrgyz Propaganda Bill
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today renewed its call to the U.S. government to press Kyrgyz lawmakers to reject the proposed anti-LGBT propaganda law that is currently moving through the Kyrgyz parliament. Earlier this week the propaganda bill was sent to the parliament for a revised second reading.
“We were happy to hear that the bill is being delayed for another second reading,” said activist Ruslan Kim of Kyrgyz Indigo, “But a postponement isn’t enough—the bill needs to be thrown out completely. As long as it remains under consideration the LGBT community will never hope to have the protection of the law.”
“This is an important moment for Kyrgyzstan to take a stance against further limitations on civil society,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “We urge U.S. policymakers to work closely with their counterparts in Kyrgyzstan to ensure that all Kyrgyz citizens are treated with basic respect and that everyone continues to have the right to express their thoughts and opinions.”
Janybek Bakchiev, leader of the Committee on Rule of Law, Order, and Fighting Crime, announced that an renewed second reading was needed, since the most recent reading was done during a previous legislative session. The news comes weeks after the parliament dismissed a controversial foreign agents bill that would have introduced harsh limits on civil society. Many in the LGBT community hope that the propaganda bill will be similarly dismissed.
Since the introduction of the propaganda bill in May 2014, reports of violence and discrimination against LGBT people in Kyrgyzstan have escalated. Additionally, civil society groups and human rights activists have been targeted by the Kyrgyz government for investigations into their receipt of foreign funding.
The proposed propaganda bill emulates Russia’s infamous law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” but would allow for more severe penalties, including the possibility of jail time. If passed, the bill would ban the existence of LGBT organizations, shutter gay clubs, and most notably, could result in one-year prison sentences for those found guilty of propagating non-traditional sexual relations. It would limit the speech, expression, and freedom of assembly of activists, civil society leaders, journalists, and members of the LGBT community by criminalizing public expression and events that contain information about “non-traditional sexual relations.” The bill must be approved on three readings and signed by Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atrambayev to become law.
Last June, the Kyrgyz minister of justice issued an official statement expressing opposition to the propaganda bill. This followed a May 2015 bipartisan letter from 23 members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging the Kyrgyz parliament to reject the propaganda bill. The U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan has publicly condemned the proposed law and European Union officials have decried the bill as one of the most “sweeping anti-propaganda bills ever published.”
Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government work to prevent the spread of Russian-style propaganda laws in the surrounding region. Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Stop Russia from Exporting Homophobia,” details how Russia’s homophobic laws and policies have spread throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and outlines key steps that the U.S. government can take to stop the spread of laws and policies that infringe on the human rights of the LGBT community.