Kazakhstan: Authorities Scrap Rainbow Wall Over Suspicions of LGBT Propaganda
Officials in the western Kazakhstan city of Aktobe thought it might be nice to brighten up the look of the place. So about a month ago, municipal workers painted the balconies on an otherwise dreary apartment block in the colors of the rainbow.
And that is when indignant local conservatives got involved, as local news website Aktobe Times has reported.
Some objected to the garishness. But others suspected that the rainbow might be a subtle form of propaganda for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual lifestyles.
National newspaper Karavan did not exactly help to dispel that nonfactual notion by headlining an article about the redecoration: “Apartment Block in Aktobe Repainted in LGBT Colors.”
The rainbow scheme was the brainchild of the head of Aktobe city hall’s architecture and urban development department, Tanat Shegebayev. He said the reaction of residents has left him bitterly disappointed.
“If every color is going to be associated with some community or other, we’re just going to be stuck with grey. When [President Nursultan Nazarbayev] came to our city, he took exception to the fact that all our buildings look alike. We are trying to bring in some variety, and this was a little experiment. But now we can see that residents are against this kind of approach. We’ll remove the rainbow soon,” Shegebayev said.
According to Aktobe Times, Shegebayev moved to the city earlier this year from the capital, Astana, with the intent of developing a new urban design for Aktobe. But he evidently failed to account for stick-in-the-mud attitudes.
Aktobe is notable in Kazakhstan for its relatively high proportion of deeply devout Muslims, so any suggestion of promoting secular lifestyle inevitably meets resistance.
Intolerance for sexual minorities extends far beyond conservative religious circles, however.
LGBT issues may not occupy as prominent a place on Kazakhstan’s public agenda as in neighboring Russia, but as a 2015 Human Rights Watch report illustrated in detail, LGBT people face routine harassment that the government does little to address.
“The LGBT people Human Rights Watch interviewed in Kazakhstan said that fear influences all aspects of their lives — fear that their sexual orientation or gender identity will impede their access to education, employment, and health care; fear of violence while walking down the street; and, too often, dread at the prospect of everyday interactions with intolerant and sometimes psychologically abusive family members,” the rights group noted.
Kazakhstan came very close in 2015 to adopting legislation analogous to a law in Russia that makes it illegal to expose children to any content implying that homosexuality constitutes a norm in society. A draft bill was approved by lawmakers and was awaiting the signature of the president when the Constitutional Council ruled, in May that year, that the legislation was unconstitutional.