Kyrgyzstan has advanced a bill that would criminalize so-called gay propaganda, and apply harsher penalties than a similar law in Russia.
The former Soviet republic's national legislative body approved the bill today by a vote of 90-2 in the second of three readings, Agence France-Presse reports. The third reading, necessary before the bill goes to President Almazbek Atambayev for his signature, will likely take place this fall, ahead of the legislative election in October, according to AFP.
The bill seems to be "a harsher version" of legislation passed by Russia in 2013, AFP reports. Banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," including statements that would "create a positive attitude to unconventional sexual orientation," it calls for jail terms of up to a year for violators. Russia's law calls only for fines, in most cases.
It's unclear from press reports if the Kyrgyzstan bill would criminalize such "propaganda" -- essentially, any positive mention of LGBT people or issues, including in print or electronic media, demonstrations, and Pride parades -- only when it appears in venues accessible to minors, as is the case in Russia, or if all such mentions would be subject to punishment.
The European Parliament and international human rights groups have voiced concerns about the legislation. In the U.S., the Human Rights Campaign today condemned the vote. "It's terrifying to see Kyrgyzstan following in the footsteps of Russia," said HRC global director Ty Cobb in a press release. "The United States and international observers must not look the other way while LGBT people in Eurasia are being dangerously marginalized with new laws that replicate the ill-advised policies of President Putin."
In the same release, Kyrgyz LGBT activist Dastan Kasmamytov said, "This is a critical moment for Kyrgyzstan. We, LGBTI activists in Kyrgyzstan, call on the international community to react swiftly. We are running out of time."
LGBT people in Kyrgyzstan already face many challenges. In May, activists rallying in the capital city of Bishkek on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia were attacked by self-styled "patriots," and police reportedly not only failed to stop the attack, but also took the LGBT activists into custody and subjected them to mistreatment there. The national government has begun investigating the incident, according to AFP.
LGBT groups in the central Asian nation also may soon encounter problems in receiving financial aid from abroad. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would classify nongovernmental organizations receiving such funding as "foreign agents." The bill, which also mimics Russian law, cleared its first reading this month, AFP reports.