Pressure on Kyrgyzstan to derail Russia-style anti-LGBTI bill

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev (Photo courtesy of RIA Novosti)
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev (Photo courtesy of RIA Novosti)

Human rights activists are putting pressure on Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev to reject a proposed anti-“gay propaganda” law during his travels in Europe this week and next.

Human Rights Watch urged leaders France, Germany and Switzerland to raise three human rights concerns during their conversations with him, seeking promises to:

  • Block passage of a bill which would censor information on LGBTI issues.
  • Block passage of a proposed “foreign agents” law that would limit the work of  human rights activists and other nongovernmental groups.
  • Release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov, who is serving a life sentence after a trial, which HRW says was unfair, on charges related to his alleged involvement in ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. Askarov allegedly was tortured by police after his arrest.

During his European tour, Atambayev is scheduled to meet with President François Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany,  President Simonetta Sommaruga of Switzerland, along with Martin Schulz, the European Parliament president, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, and Donald Tusk, the European Council president.

Kyrgyzstan decriminalized consensual sex between men in 1998, but HRW reported last year that gay and bisexual men have been subjected by violence, arbitrary detention and extortion by Kyrgyz police.

Kyrgyzstan flag
Kyrgyzstan flag

The anti-“gay propaganda” bill is similar to the anti-LGBTI law in Russia, calling for punishment for dissemination of information “aimed at forming positive attitudes toward non-traditional sexual relations.”

But the Kyrgyz bill is harsher, providing for up to one year in prison for violations.

European member of parliament Beatriz Becerra said, “We have all seen the horrible consequences of the Russian anti-propaganda bill: a clampdown on NGOs, forbidden prides and organised hate crime against LGBTI people. We urge Kyrgyzstan to not to follow the path of state-sponsored homophobia, and unreservedly support and promote the fundamental rights of all its citizens.”

The bill passed the first reading in October. It would need to pass in two further parliamentary votes and win presidential approval before turning into law.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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