London, 29 June 2015
News that a law which will restrict positive discourse around sexual orientation has been passed in a second reading by the Kyrgyzstan parliament is deeply disappointing, PEN International and Central Asian PEN said today. PEN called on the parliament not to pass the bill at its final reading.
Introduction of the law “On Introducing Additions to Some Legislative Acts of the Kyrgyz Republic” copied a similar law introduced in Russia in 2013 but provides for harsher penalties of up to 12 months in prison. The law would prohibit the so-called “propaganda” of “non-traditional” (i.e. same sex) relations and – while applying generally - would specifically target the media and peaceful assemblies.
"It is deeply worrying to see Kyrgyzstan - once seen as Central Asia's bright hope in terms of free expression and openness - following the same repressive path as that set down by Russia in 2013”, said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
“Even without this law, Kyrgyzstan has no openly LGBTQI voices in politics and the media. This legislation is partly a result of Russia's growing influence in Kyrgyzstan and partly an appeal to the more reactionary elements in Kyrgyz society. It is a cynical, unnecessary reaction to a completely manufactured 'problem'."
The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the Code of Administrative Responsibility, the law on Peaceful Assembly and the Law on Mass Media seek to ban the creation of positive attitudes or creating interest in “non-traditional” sexual relationships, or drawing equivalence between homosexual and heterosexual relationships.
The amendments, if passed, will target any positive discourse around diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in the public arena. It will certainly lead to the media avoiding any positive coverage of issues that affect LGBTQI people, and similar censorship would likely be seen in the fields of education and health care provision.
“Last year, the 80th International PEN Congress adopted a resolution on this issue that was the result of creative thinking and reflected the position of writers from all over the world. Central Asian PEN completely agrees with this document” said Dalmira Tilepbergenova, President of Central Asian PEN.
“The fact that the Kyrgyz Parliament continues to exaggerate this issue confirms once again that the state does not intend to listen to the voice of the writers.
“Prohibition of propaganda of any phenomenon, including LGBTQI, is an attack on freedom of expression …. [to] impose a ban on the discussion of these topics is hypocrisy. To confront the processes of globalization under the guise of such a ban is not possible. It looks like you are trying to hide yourself from the wind with a sheet of paper.
“But I'm afraid that this technique is used to deflect the attention of the public and under cover of this hype around the LGBTQI propaganda issue, the authorities are selling our Jerooy gold deposit to Russia for a pittance.”
International standards are clear that bans on “propaganda” of same-sex relations violate the right to freedom of expression and information which is enjoyed by all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Such bans not only limit discourse on matters in the public interest, but restrict access to information to all people that is essential to enjoyment of other rights – in particular the right to health and the right to education. Where similar bans have been adopted, they have been shown to normalise discrimination against LGBTQI people and are linked to an increase in the climate of hostility and violence experienced by LGBTQI people.
Discriminatory prohibitions on the right to freedom of expression and information cannot be justified by reference to arguments around public morality. Similarly, attempts to frame such prohibitions as necessary to protect children from harm are contrary to all available evidence. The UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Venice Commission for the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights have all formally adopted positions that support this conclusion.
PEN International’s UPR Submission
PEN International’s Free Expression Concerns in Kyrgyzstan
States urged to make recommendations on freedom of expression during UPR reviews of Kyrgyzstan, Kenya and Turkey
PEN International’s 2014 resolution on Kyrgyzstan
PEN International’s 2014 resolution on anti-LGBTQI legislation which restricts the right to freedom of expression
For more information, contact Ann Harrison, Programme Director, Writers in Prison Committee, at PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER. Tel: +44 (0) 2074050338, Fax: +44(0) 2074050339. Email: email@example.com