Secretary Kerry Fails to Raise Concerns Over Severe Anti-LGBT Bill with Kyrgyzstan Leaders
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today pressed the Obama Administration to publicly call for the Kygryz government to reject the proposed propaganda law that would be a major setback for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Kyrgyzstan and could help fuel similar efforts in the region. The call came following reports that Secretary of State John Kerry failed to raise concerns over the extreme bill during meetings this weekend with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev. The bill has passed two readings in the Kyrgyzstan parliament and will likely have its third and final reading when the parliament is back in session next month.
“This is not only a missed opportunity, but a failure of U.S. leadership to advance the protection of human rights in Central Asia,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “Secretary Kerry has a responsibility to speak forcefully and directly about the dangerous consequences of this bill, a bill that if passed would be a major step backwards for human rights in Kyrgyzstan and the region. With Kazakhstan poised to once again introduce similar legislation, the human rights of LGBT people ought to be a prime concern throughout Central Asia. We urge the administration to press the Kyrgyz government to reject this bill, and to make clear that its passage will negatively impact the U.S.-Kyrgyzstan relationship.”
Kerry reportedly met with several leaders from Central Asia on Saturday, including Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev, to discuss issues of security and economic development. According to a statement from State Department spokesperson John Kirby these discussions did not include threats to the human rights of LGBT people.
In recent months, 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.
The Kyrgyz Minister of Justice issued an official statement in June expressing opposition to the propaganda bill. This followed a May 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.