State Department Urged to Press for Protection of LGBT Communities in Central Asia
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First recently called on Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon to publicly urge the Kyrgyz government to reject a proposed anti-LGBT propaganda law during his trip to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to commemorate each country’s 25th anniversary of independence from Soviet Union. Kyrgyzstan sits poised to pass legislation emulating Russia’s infamous law that infringes on the human rights of LGBT people. The call came in a letter from Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord ahead of the under secretary’s trip this week.
“Throughout the region, members of the LGBT community face institutionalized homophobia and discrimination,” wrote Gaylord. “It is our sincere hope that concerns for the most marginalized populations, including LGBT people, are part of your engagement with leaders in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.”
For nearly three years, Human Rights First has engaged with LGBT activists in Central Asia as they work to create a safer environment for all citizens regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization has been particularly engaged in Kyrgyzstan, where a pending propaganda law threatens the human rights of LGBT people. The bill is directly modeled after Russia’s notorious 2013 law, but goes a step further by allowing for prison sentences for violations. The Kyrgyz parliament may soon take up the propaganda bill for its third—and final—reading, and passage is all but assured; legislators approved the bill 90-2 on its second reading. Once the bill passes, President Almazbek Atambayev must decide whether to sign it into law or veto it. 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.”
Human Rights First is also concerned about a possible constitutional referendum that would redefine marriage to preclude marriage equality for the LGBT community. Activists say the discussions around the referendum and the propaganda law are exacerbating an already difficult climate for members of the LGBT community.
Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to prevent the spread of Russian-style propaganda laws in Central Asia. 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.