With a gay propaganda law in the works, a history peppered with anti-gay violence, lawmakers in Parliament saying things like "homosexuality is a clearly unacceptable behavior" and a bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the situation in Kazakhstan sounds a lot like Russia's. And that's a curious place to be, when you consider the international outrage against the latter's aggressive anti-gay laws and the resulting calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.
The Gay Propaganda Laws
In Russia, you can get punished for telling a child this sentence: "Gay people exist." If Russian officials wanted, they could probably find a way to punish me for writing that on the Internet—that's how far and wide their anti-gay "propaganda" laws go. In Kazakhstan, there are already murmurs of a Kazakh version of this legislation being enacted. On Monday, Aldan Smaiyl, a member of the Majilis (the Lower Chamber of the Parliament), announced that he plans to propose a similar measure in September, when the Majilis returns from summer recess, Tengri News, an English news site in Kazakhstan, reported. Another Kazakhstan MP, one Murat Akhmadiyev said he would support that law.
These anti-gay propaganda laws aren't exactly new. "I asked to ban gay-clubs, demonstrations and any and all of these disgusting relations," Smaiyl said, referring to a request he made to Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov this past spring. "This should not continue the way they are now," he added.
Kazakhstan's Anti-Gay History
Russia, where you can be detained just for "looking" gay, has never really been a safe place for LGBT residents, and the same can be said for Kazakhstan, where LGBT activists say that gay and lesbian people can not live openly. Kazakhstan was the last Soviet republic to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and as Gay Star News explains, the country is largely influenced by what goes within the borders of its larger, more influential neighbor. And its politicians seem in no way ashamed of their bigotry.
Take this for instance: After gay rights activists made headlines for hosting the country's first gay wedding back in May— a political statement with no legal bearing— the act of civil disobedience prompted even more absurd vitriol from Smaiyl, who told Parliament:
A law should be adopted which would allow [homosexuals] to be considered criminals against humanity. 'In [Kazak capital] Almaty there are already 20 gay clubs; in Astana four clubs! What sort of disgrace is this?
According to a Soros Foundation study in 2009, the first thorough look into the country's treatment of its LGBT brothers and sisters, a "considerable segment" of LGBT citizens in Kazakhstan have to live with daily discrimination; in fact, around 81.2 percent of respondents in the study indicated that LGBT people are subject to widespread disapproval and violence. The study explains:
Manifestation of negative attitudes toward LGBT people, such as social exclusion, taunting, and violence often cause the victims physical, psychological and emotional harm In order to avoid the dangers posed by homophobes and transphobes, many LGBT people feel compelled to keep their sexual orientation or gender identity a secret from almost all people in their lives
Kazakhstan's Olympic Hopes
Just like Russia, Kazakhstan wants to host the Winter Olympics, and, along with cities like Munich and Barcelona, has officially put in a bid for the city of Almaty to host the 2022 Games. (Almaty is also home to what Smaiyl calls 20 "disgraceful" gay clubs.) But Kazakhstan isn't the only nation that's tried to emulate Russia's anti-gay laws: earlier this month, Armenia began trying to pass a similar gay propaganda law; the bill was ultimately withdrawn last Thursday, which lawmakers swear had nothing to do with the international attention or foreign pressure. "This is definitely the shadow of Russia. We live in Russia’s shadow," a gay activist in Armenia told the Azatutyun news service. If lawmakers like Smaiyl have their way, LGBT people in Kazakhstan won't even be legally allowed to say that much.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.