Kazakhstan Says No to Gays in Military
Gay men are not welcome in Kazakhstan’s military on the grounds that the state classifies homosexuality as a “disorder,” Defense Minister Adilbek Dzhaksybekov has declared.Asked by a visitor to his official blog if gay men are called up for Kazakhstan's mandatory army service, Dzhaksybekov ruled this out on the grounds that homosexuality is a “disorder of sexual desire” that prevents “entry into military service in the armed forces, other forces and military formations of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”Citing the health requirements soldiers have to meet by law (which do not explicitly rule out such “disorders” but establish mental health standards), Dzhaksybekov said that homosexuality is determined through psychiatric checks.This attitude harks back to Soviet times, when homosexuality was classed as a mental disorder and sodomy was punishable by law (most former Soviet countries, including Kazakhstan, have now decriminalized it). The question of whether homosexuals can serve in Kazakhstan’s military has not featured prominently on the agenda in the past, but the defense minister’s remarks place Kazakhstan among countries that explicitly ban them from serving. The policy is at odds with practice in neighboring Russia, where gay men and women are allowed to serve. The United States has relaxed its policy in recent years, abandoning its “don’t ask don’t tell” strategy -- which barred openly gay people from serving -- last year.Homosexuality and lesbianism remain largely taboo topics in Kazakhstan, with many lesbians and homosexuals preferring to conceal their sexual orientation. Those who are “out” tend to face discrimination.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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