Kyrgyzstan is on its way to passing one of the most dangerous anti-LGBT bills in today’s world. The bill, which is on its third reading in Parliament and passed through its first reading with a strong majority, takes the Russian anti-LGBT propaganda law and makes it so much worse.
The Russian law, which was passed and signed in 2013, criminalizes the distribution of “non-traditional sexual relationship propaganda” to minors, levying fines against those distributing said materials. This law has increased hate crimes within Russia and made living conditions for LGBT citizens much more dangerous. However, the Kyrgyz bill changes the language so that the ban is not just against distributing such materials to minors, but distributing them at all. The larger ramifications of this change mean that nearly anyone is at risk of prison sentences that last up to a year, from journalists reporting on LGBT issues to health care providers who distribute information to their patients.
I’ve written in the past about how Kazakhstan has been considering a similar bill since the loss of their Olympics bid. However, what is scary about the Kyrgyz version of this bill is that this kind of legislation is picking up momentum across Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Kyrgyzstan’s LGBT community is experiencing increased violence as the bill has picked up momentum, and it hasn’t even been signed into law yet. The only thing this legislation does is harm the LGBT community, who are already persecuted in the region.
There is hope that President Almazbek Atambayev might veto the bill entirely, or simply not sign it, which would return it to Parliament to try and move it through again. And while both options could happen, Atambayev faces a conservative country and legislature. It is up to the global communities to follow up on his decision, and to commend him should he choose inaction or a veto in order to encourage pro-LGBT rights legislation in the region.
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.