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Stopping the passing of an anti-LGBT bill in Kyrgyzstan

On March 26, the Kyrgyz parliament introduced an anti-LGBT bill that would criminalize the promotion of homosexuality in Kyrgyzstan. If passed, those who openly support LGBT rights in Kyrgyzstan could face up to a year of imprisonment. The bill comes shortly after the passage of the similar anti gay-propaganda law in Russia. However, the bill in Kyrgyzstan even suggests a higher penalty for pro-LGBT action. Bridging the Gaps interviewed Nika Yuryeva, representing LGBTIQA organisation LABRYS, partnerorganisation of AIDS Action Europe.

Can you tell us in brief what this law entails?

The draft law proposes to ban dissemination of any information, which may be interpreted as creating a positive attitude towards ‘non-traditional sexual relations’. There is criminal liability for dissemination of such information through media and Internet of up to 6 months imprisonment for the first time offense, and up to a year for further violation of the law.

How will this law impact the lives of LGBT communities in Kyrgyzstan?

For the LGBT communities this draft law will have catastrophic consequences – the level of hate, persecution and violence will rise, because by passing this law the State will be giving ‘permission for violence’ – similar situation can be observed in Russia at this moment. The work of LGBT organisations will become illegal, and their offices will become a target for aggressive groups.

An example from just this night – a group of fellow LGBT was attacked just this night as they were leaving the city’s only known gay club. There were about 30 men, who physically and verbally attacked them. Our activists have registered this case with militia.

What do you think will be the consequence of this law for human rights defenders?

Human rights defenders will not be able to talk about rights of the LGBT communities in Kyrgyzstan. It will also be impossible to publicly talk about violence, stigma and discrimination against these groups. LGBT activists will not be able to participate in peaceful demonstrations for protection of their rights. In general any information and awareness raising work will be stopped – with journalists, militia, medical specialists etc.

How will the law affect the HIV/AIDS response in your country?

This draft law will lead to criminalising programmes of HIV prevention, treatment and care, which are connected to LGBT communities. HIV prevention, the main component of which is awareness raising, will be considered a crime.  Programmes of treatment, care and support for people living with HIV from the LGBT communities will be greatly limited: any support and work with families and closest friends can be qualified as actions criminalized by this draft law. LGBT communities will be forced to hide. People will stop turning to both NGOs and governmental bodies fearing greater pressure and persecution. Activities of all HIV/AIDS and grass roots non-governmental organisations as legal entities may be qualified as illegal.

How will it impact the work that you are doing as part of the Bridging the Gaps programme?

This draft law will make all the work within the Bridging the Gaps programme illegal. Of course, the state needs to prove the fact that we are ‘forming positive attitude’, but this will give law enforcement agencies opportunities to pressure LGBT organisations in Kyrgyzstan.

What are the steps that you are going to undertake to address this law?

Currently we are working on stopping this law through the “Coalition for Justice and Non-discrimination”, which was created by Labrys in 2013 for promoting anti-discrimination initiatives. This is a wide partnership network of civil society organisations, including LGBT organisations. Currently we are lobbying the rejection of the draft law among people, who are making decisions. The second stage of our work (should the first stage of lobbying turn out to be ineffective) will involve a wide media campaign. We also hope for support of the international community.

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