Kazakhstan must reject any attempts to restrict LGBT rights

Kazakhstan must reject any attempts to restrict LGBT rights

In June, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Culture and Information announced that it was reviewing a petition titled “We are against open and covert LGBT propaganda in Kazakhstan!” launched by the head of the Kazakhstan Parents’ Union, a public association, after the petition met the criteria required for consideration by the government.

The government of Kazakhstan should reject this discriminatory and stigmatizing petition, the proposal of which would violate human rights throughout the country.

The petition, seen by Human Rights Watch, calls on Kazakh authorities to introduce a law banning so-called “overt and covert LGBT propaganda in Kazakhstan” and to impose penalties for such material, under the guise of “protecting children.” It could potentially lead to draft laws or amendments to existing laws. The petition law gives the ministry 40 working days to review the petition, and a response is expected by August 5.

The petition does not meet the criteria set out in domestic law, which explicitly excludes proposals that violate “human rights and freedoms.” The content of the petition openly discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and misuses child protection rhetoric to restrict fundamental freedoms. It refers to Russian laws prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” which have been universally condemned by human rights bodies. If accepted, this “propaganda” proposal would violate Kazakhstan’s international human rights obligations on non-discrimination and freedom of expression, opinion, information, association and assembly.

Despite its international obligations, Kazakhstan does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its laws as grounds for protection against discrimination, and authorities have in the past refused to register nongovernmental organizations working to defend the rights of LGBT people. In 2023, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern about “violence against persons based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity” and called on the authorities to end such violence.

Harassment, discrimination and threats of violence are already commonplace in the daily lives of LGBT people in Kazakhstan. If the authorities decide to support this petition, they will make the situation even worse by condoning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kazakhstan’s international partners should publicly condemn attempts to glorify homophobic and transphobic rhetoric. The government should immediately halt this harmful proposal and work with human rights organizations and LGBT activists to improve protections rather than erode them.