Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 27
By Elena Kosolapova - Trend: While Western countries take measures to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities, Kazakhstan is on the verge of passing laws introducing legal sanctions against them.
Anti-gay practices are nothing new for Kazakhstan, where prior to 1997 the country's Penal Code criminalized "buggery." This legislation followed the corresponding law from the former Soviet Union. Now same sex relationships is legal in Kazakhstan. However country does not recognize same-sex unions in any form.
Meanwhile homophobic rhetoric is on the rise in Kazakhstan recently and more and more politicians, public figures and ordinary people urge to prevent homosexual relations in the country. The initiators say that such relations contradict the "national mentality," and "threaten the family values and demographics."
Some anti-gay are activists are calling for mechanisms to counteract gay marriage (although there is no legal mechanism for gay marriage in Kazakhstan) or for the legislation`n prohibiting the "propaganda" of homosexuality similar to the one currently on the books in Russia. The most extreme homophobes demand to class homosexuals as "criminals" and impose a complete ban on homosexual relations.
There are no reliable statistics on the number of LGBT people in Kazakhstan. The study conducted by the Public Fund Adali in 2005 said that about 112,000 gay lived in Kazakhstan. In 2010 Kazakh LGBT community in an appeal to President Nursultan Nazarbayev calling to legalize same-sex marriages said that 600,000 LGBT people lived in the country. In May 2013 MP Aldan Smayyl while calling for anti-gay legislation said Kazakhstan counts on 240,000 gays and lesbians. LGBT centers are working in all Kazakh regional centers and 20 gay clubs function in the largest Kazakh city of Almaty, according to Smayyl.
In spite of high number of gays and lesbians in Kazakhstan the society is intolerant to them. For example, Aldan Smayyl, called them "criminals against humanity" and asserted that homosexuality is "amorality of the highest degree."
"We believe that it is an abnormal policy of the Western countries (promoting of same-sex relations). We have to protect ourselves from this phenomenon," other MP Bakhytbek Smagul said in October 2013.
One more MP Kairbek Suleymenov said that national traditions of all the nations living in Kazakhstan contradict this tendency developing in Western countries.
"I am sure that we will never allow this (same-sex marriages), but we have to create mechanisms, legal and political leverage to counter them," Suleymenov said in May 2013.
Earlier Kazakh Defense Ministry Adilbek Zhaksybekov said that gays are not allowed to do military service.
An outburst of homophobic rhetoric among Kazakh ordinary people sparked following a symbolic lesbian wedding took place in the Kazakh city of Karaganda in April 2013.
Photos from this unusual ceremony were published by a number of media outlets all over the country and provoked a number of discussions in social networks and Kazakh forums.
The majority of comments are quite disapprobatory, although moderators delete the most insulting and unquotable ones.
"All Holy Scriptures including the Koran and the Bible prohibit perversion! If this continues, it will convert in Sodom and Gomorrah," one commenter of the photo-report said.
"It's just a lack of discipline, degradation," other commenter said.
"WTF, comrades! I pity the parents," one more user said.
"This is disgusting. We need a healthy family consisting of mother, father and morally and spiritually healthy children," one more quote said.
Some people supported the girls, however they are in minority.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. The girls are happy and this is the most important thing," one of supporters said.
"Congratulations! I sincerely wish you happiness! No matter what your nationality, orientation, country and race. The most important thing is you people. Be strong and happy," another user tolerant to LGBT people wrote.
Thus, in spite of legality of same-sex relations the life of gays and lesbians is not easy in Kazakhstan.
The study published by the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan in 2009 said that 81 percent of respondents found public attitudes toward the LGBT community unfriendly or quite unfriendly.
Currently, Kazakh LGBT people prefer to keep a low profile and conceal their sexual orientation and gender identity as met with antipathy in Kazakh society.
If a controversial law is adopted in the country, gays and lesbians will have to remain in the closet.