Kazakh President Should Veto Homophobic Bill

A homophobic bill sailed through Kazakhstan’s legislature and awaits the president’s signature. Modeled after Russia’s propaganda law, the bill would outlaw the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientations.” The Kazakh bill goes a step further by equating “gay propaganda” with other things considered dangerous to children, including erotic or pornographic materials, depictions of cruelty or violence, and anything that might provoke children to “life-threatening acts.”

Though homosexuality isn’t criminalized in Kazakhstan, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community faces an increasingly hostile environment. Politicians have called for blood tests to identify LGBT people, and national organizations have lobbied for bans on LGBT people from holding public office or serving in the military.

When homophobic legislation is enacted, violence against LGBT people tends to increase. Take Russia, Jamaica, or Uganda for example. If Kazakh President Nursultan Nazabayev signs this bill, it’s a de facto endorsement of discrimination against the LGBT community and the denial of their human right to free expression.

Kazakhstan is currently vying to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. And while Russia’s propaganda law didn’t derail the Sochi Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has since added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination clause and made it clear that this clause also applies to host city contracts. By passing these new rules, the IOC acknowledged that discrimination based on sexual orientation goes against the Olympic spirit and that host countries will be expected to uphold that standard.

Kazakhstan’s bill conflicts with the Olympic Charter. Human Rights First sent a letter this week urging IOC President Thomas Bach to press Nazabayev to veto the bill. We’ve also asked the Obama administration to press for this outcome. Hopefully Nazabayev will get the message that discriminating against LGBT people is not only harmful to those individuals, but also to the reputation and prosperity of Kazakhstan.

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Published on April 7, 2015

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