There are many downsides to hosting the Olympics. Hosting the games is generally not a wise investment, and sinking that amount of money into an event that doesn’t ultimately pay off for the country isn’t worth it. Additionally, hosting the Olympics often results in criticism, valid or not, toward the host country, and their ability to run their country.
Yet, the LGBT community in Kazakhstan is incredibly disappointed in not being chosen for the 2022 winter Olympics.
The Constitutional Council of the country has struck down anti-LGBT legislation in the recent past, in an attempt to garner the favor of the Olympics Committee. However, with the prospect of the Olympics now gone, the Council has no barrier in place to not go ahead with legislation that would be detrimental to the LGBT community.
The Human Rights Watch recently released a report entitled “That’s When I Realized I Was Nobody,” which aims to expose the social environment that LGBT people experience in Kazakhstan. The report highlights the fear of those living in the region, and how sexuality and gender identity ultimately can be the deciding factor in survival. While the legacy of the Soviet Union’s homophobia lives on in the country, ultimately, the Kazakh government is not being held accountable to its actions.
What is currently of concern to the LGBT community in Kazakhstan is an “anti-gay propaganda” law that that is styled after the one implemented in Russia. With the Olympics not holding the council back, the potential for danger for the LGBT community is only increasing.
As a country that is often not on the social or political radar, Kazakhstan’s LGBT community is particularly at risk for slipping through the news cycle cracks. While the situation is bleak at the moment, increased attention being paid to the region by the Human Rights Watch will prove critical in the coming months. No country should be stalling bigotry and oppression in the hopes of qualifying for any program, and ultimately, the Olympics bring a stark reminder to the reality faced by many LGBT people in Central Asia.
Mehek Naresh is an Indian American lesbian, living and working in Florida after recently graduating with a Bachelors in Political Science. Her hobbies seeking out small talk with cashiers, reading, and spending more time staring at tumblr than she’d care to admit.