Kazakhstan: Parliament Becomes Scene of Homophobic Rants
Kazakhstan’s self-appointed morality police are taking on the gay and lesbian community: In recent weeks, lawmakers’ homophobic rants have echoed through the hallowed halls of parliament as they call for homosexuality to be criminalized.Homosexuality is “amorality of the highest degree,” blustered deputy Aldan Smayyl in parliament on May 22, Kazakhstan Today reported.“A law should be adopted which would allow [homosexuals] to be considered criminals against humanity,” Smayyl – who represents the ruling Nur Otan party, headed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev – continued. He has sent a query to Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov about adopting a law and is awaiting a response.“In Almaty there are already 20 gay clubs; in Astana four clubs! What sort of disgrace is this?” Smayyl ranted in further remarks broadcast on KTK TV. His bid to criminalize homosexuality – which flies in the face of Kazakhstan’s constitutional guarantee of equal rights for all – comes as the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community are increasingly the subject of public debate in Kazakhstan, partly sparked by a symbolic lesbian wedding held last month. There is no legal mechanism for gay marriage in Kazakhstan, nor is any planned. But that didn’t stop parliamentary deputy Kairbek Suleymenov (another Nur Otan stalwart) from demanding action against something that doesn’t exist.Kazakhstan needs “mechanisms” to counteract gay marriage, which is “alien to Kazakhstani psychology” and “traditions,” he told Tengri News on May 17. The parliamentary deputies’ unashamed homophobic remarks seem to confirm anecdotal evidence that the LGBT community faces widespread discrimination in Kazakhstan. Nikita Naumov, director of the Community LGBT-rights foundation, said on May 17 that “the government and the public have a negative attitude toward the LGBT community.” The government has stayed out of the debate so far. But parliament seems determined to try to force it to take sides, even as irritated online commentators wonder why their deputies aren’t dealing with more pressing issues.The discussion is also being fuelled by moves against the LGBT community in neighboring Russia, where parliament in January backed a bill outlawing the “propaganda” of homosexuality among minors. Amid the vituperative climate in Russia – which is something of a signpost for the Central Asian republics – a homosexual man was brutally murdered last month because of his sexuality.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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