WGNRR’s Statement on Kyrgyzstan’s Anti-“Propaganda” Bill

Posted on November 11, 2014

Kyrgyzstan Must Reject the Discriminatory Anti-“Propaganda” Bill and Uphold the Human Rights of LGBTQI Individuals and Allied Human Rights Defenders.

It is with great concern that we at the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) learned of the recent decision of Kyrgyzstan’s lawmakers to adopt the discriminatory anti-“propaganda” bill, targeting LGBTQI[1] rights activists and others, including journalists, who are suspected in “the formation of a positive attitude towards non-traditional forms of sexual relations.”

Among the proposed bill’s provisions, should it become law, would be the banning of LGBTQI organizations, the closure of gay clubs, as well as a one-year prison sentence for those found guilty of propagating “non-traditional sexual relations,” thereby limiting the freedom of speech, expression, and assembly of activists, journalists, and members of the LGBTQI community. Described as emulating Russia’s so called “gay propaganda” law, the bill passed its first reading on the 15th of October, with a vote of 79 to 7. If it passes two more readings, the bill will go to President Almazbek Atambayev, to sign it into law.

As has been pointed out on multiple occasions by Bishkek-based LGBTQI advocates, such as the organisation Labrys and members of the Coalition for Justice and Non-Discrimination,[2] the proposed bill would lead to numerous negative outcomes on political and societal levels. For example, it would run the risk of a resurgence in youth violence, as the level of conflict-sensitivity of these amendments is estimated by experts as being extremely low.[3] Moreover, the bill would have particularly negative consequences in the area of public health, as restrictive rules would limit the dissemination of public health information, as well as threaten the viability of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programs. The bill would also strengthen the position of conservative, nationalist, and religious-fundamentalist forces, and undermine the fragile internal political balance that the Government has attempted to maintain after the violent ethnic clashes in 2010. Furthermore, the proposed legislation contradicts numerous human rights provisions, as the bill does not comply with either the provisions of Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution[4] or those of international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,[5] both of which have been ratified by Kyrgyzstan.

Any law that prohibits any advocacy or support for the rights of LGBTQI individuals violates the basic rights to freedom of expression, conscience, association, and assembly, as well as internationally recognized protections against discrimination on any grounds. These kinds of laws encourage, reinforce, and aggravate stigma and prejudice through the institutionalization of discrimination against the LGBTQI community, rendering void all promised protections enshrined in national Constitutions and international human rights treaties.Such laws also place LGBTQI rights defenders, in particular those who are underage, at risk of targeted and ongoing persecution, including abuse and violence, as noted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.[6]

It is important to highlight that women human rights defenders[7](WHRDs) who work on sexual and reproductive rights issues are particularly at risk of grave consequences, as they are often perceived to be “challenging accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions,perceptions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation, and the role and status of women in society,” as said by several United Nations Special procedures.[8]

As noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity as well as their human rights defenders are at risk of homophobic and transphobic violence in all regions of the world, including coercion, threats, house or office raids, beatings, murder, rape and sexual assault, among other forms of violence and abuse.[9] And as outlined in the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report,[10]ongoing “structural violence in the form of homonegativity marginalizes and dehumanizes persons of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, hindering their capacity to fully contribute to society, and denying them the civil rights that are typically afforded to other persons.”[11]

Any laws that circumscribe and/or criminalize the right to freedom of expression of LGBTQI individuals and allied activists advocating for LGBTQI rights will only serve to reinforce existing climates of hatred and intolerance, placing them at risk of continued harassment and various forms of violence. These kinds of laws violate governments’ most basic obligations to fulfill the rights and wellbeing of their populations, and are unacceptable and unjustifiable.

We thus urge the government of Kyrgyzstan to:

  • Reject the proposed bill immediately in order to respect, protect, and fulfill Kyrgyzstan’s international and regional human rights obligations, furthering the growth of democracy and non-discrimination.
  • Conform its domestic laws to the international treaties and human rights standards, towards ensuring meaningful protection of the human rights of LGBTQI individuals and allied human rights defenders.
  • Take all measures necessary to ensure the effective protection of LGBTQI individuals and human and sexual rights defenders from harassment, violence and discrimination, and the immediate release of any incarcerated LGBTQI advocates and activists.

It is high time for LGBTQI communities in Kyrgyzstan to live lives free from violence and discrimination. We call on the Kyrgyz government and others worldwide to join us in creating more inclusive societies embracing the human rights of dignity and equality, where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are accepted and celebrated!

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[1] In using the term LGBTQI, werefer to individualswhoidentify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or intersex, as well as individuals of other diverse sexual orientations and genderidentities.
[2]Labrys, “Stopping ‘LGBT Propaganda Law’ in Kyrgyzstan.”
[3] Coalition for Justice and Non-Discrimination in Kyrgyzstan, Statement On Inadmissibility of Introducing Discriminatory Norms in the Legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic.
[4]The proposed amendments violate several articles of the Kyrgyz Republic’s Constitution as they are in sharp contradiction to the protection of human rights and freedoms, in this case the rights of LGBTQI citizens of Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, a ban on the dissemination of information about homosexuality and LGBTQI communities violates the human right of access to information, guaranteed under Article 33 of the Constitution, while amendments to the Law “On peaceful gatherings” also violate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Please see the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic,  Art. 33-34.
[5]The adoption of the bill would entail a violation of articles 19 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the freedom of expression and non-discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, as well as Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Please see the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 19 and 26, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Art. 2.
[6]See UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Russian Federation,” CRC/C/RUS/CO/4-5, 31 January 2014, par. 24 and 25.
[7] By Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs), we refer to “women and girls, in every corner of the world, who actively work to defend their own rights and the rights of others, as well as a range of other activists of all sexualities who also defend the rights of women,” as defined by the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC). Definition retrieved from WHRD IC (2014), “The WHRD Movement.”
[8] See UN Report “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders,” E/CN.4/2001/94, 26 January 2001, para. 89 (g); and “Report of Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya,” A/HRC/16/44, 20 December 2010.
[9]SeeUNHCHR Report “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and genderidentity,”A/HRC/19/41, 17 November 2011, para. 20, 28, and 30.
[10] The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report is the culmination of a landmark UN review of progress, gaps, challenges and emerging issues in relation to the 1994 ICPD Programme of Action adopted in Cairo. It gathers data from 176 member states, alongside inputs from civil society and comprehensive academic research.  To learn more, visit http://icpdbeyond2014.org/about/view/29-global-review-report.
[11]ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report (2014), p. 86-87.