Homophobic rhetoric is on the rise in Kazakhstan, and members of the country’s gay and transsexual community are bracing for a possible legislative assault on their rights.
Activists for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community worry that Kazakhstan may follow Russia’s lead and adopt legislation prohibiting the “propaganda” of homosexuality – or even slap an outright ban on “homosexual relations,” as some MPs have advocated.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev so far hasn’t seemed keen to press ahead with Russia-like restrictions. Even so, several verbal outbursts by prominent politicians have heightened concerns among LGBT activists. The latest vitriolic attack came from MP Bakhytbek Smagul of the ruling Nur Otan party, who earlier in Octobercalled for legislation to “root out homosexual relations,” and urged Kazakhstan to adopt a law banning “propaganda” of homosexuality, similar to controversial legislation adopted in Russia last year. In justifying his position, Smagul cited the “national mentality,” ancient Central Asian cultures, Kazakhstan’s geostrategic location, family values, and demographics.
In May, MP Aldan Smayyl described homosexuality as “amorality” and called for legislation to class homosexuals as “criminals against humanity.”
Such statements bring to mind unfortunate parallels with the fictional character Borat, whose outrageous homophobic and sexist comments in the eponymous 2006 movie was a source of embarrassment and vexation for Astana.
Amid the outbursts, Kazakhstani gay-rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are keeping a low profile: NGO representatives have issued no statements and did not respond to EurasiaNet.org’s requests for comment.
On an individual level, a few members of the LGBT community are speaking out, albeit anonymously. “I consider this [homophobic rhetoric] unacceptable. It’s like fascism. If we start persecuting one group, then it will be another – Jews, then Uighurs,” said Roman, an Almaty-based designer who asked to be identified only by his first name. “I think the state should treat all citizens equally and doesn’t have the right to discriminate against people according to their affiliation.”
International campaigners caution that aggressive rhetoric in parliament can foster public hostility toward the LGBT community in Kazakhstan, where it already faces discrimination in this relatively conservative, Muslim-majority society. “Trying to exclude LGBT people by calling them alien to Central Asian ‘traditions’ and ‘mentality’ is the same as trying to make them less than human,” Anna Kirey, a researcher on LGBT rights at New York-based Human Rights Watch, cautioned.
“Passing the laws that Kazakhstani MPs are calling for would make LGBT people’s lives even more difficult and potentially encourage more violence [against them],” she told EurasiaNet.org. “MPs should pass laws that protect citizens of Kazakhstan from discrimination and improve their lives, not further marginalize them.”
(Read the full article here. Source: Eurasianet, 22 Oct 2013)