State Department Special Envoy Urged to Press Kazakhstan on Human Rights of LGBT People
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry to address concerning reports of discrimination and acts of violence against the Kazakh LGBT community when he meets with the country’s leaders on his upcoming trip. The organization also called on Berry to take advantage of meetings with activists to better inform U.S. policy on how best to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities in the region achieve their goals. Berry will travel to the Central Asian country to engage with officials, the diplomatic corps, and members of civil society in Almaty and Astana as part of a four-country diplomatic mission.
“We believe that change is possible in Central Asia, even if progress is likely to be slow. Brave activists are standing up to claim their basic rights and there are multiple opportunities for international solidarity to help bolster their efforts,” wrote Shawn Gaylord in a letter to Special Envoy Berry. “Diplomatic missions such as this one are an essential component of this forward movement and we hope you will seek out every opportunity to help advance the cause of LGBT equality while in the region.”
Kazakhstan has a troubling record of failing to protect the rights of its LGBT citizens. In May 2015, Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Court invalidated a bill titled “On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development.” Modeled after Russia’s infamous law, the bill would have introduced a ban on the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientation.” The bill was ostensibly withdrawn due to vague wording. At the time the country was bidding to host the 2022 Olympics and such a law would have come into direct conflict with Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, among other protected categories. Although activists report frequent incidents of harassment and violence against LGBT people, there was not a single prosecution in 2015. Activists report that victims of bias-motivated crimes rarely turn to the police out of fear of additional persecution and violence.
Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government 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.