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March 18, 2014

Russia’s Newest Export: Anti-“Propaganda” Laws

by Trevor Allen

Is the anti-gay “propaganda” law destined to be Russia’s number one export?

The Russian LGBT community is anxiously watching as analogous laws banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors” surface in Eastern Europe to Central Asia. While Moldova overturned the law and Armenia withdrew it, other nations including Kyrgyzstan plan to follow in Russia’s footsteps.

Over the past two months, Kyrgyz group “Kalys” (“Justice”) has spearheaded two anti-gay demonstrations outside of the U.S. embassy in Bishkek. Members of the group demand an end to promotion of the “homosexual lifestyle.” Legislative Deputy T. Zulpukarov, proponent of the anti-gay “propaganda” bill, met with “Kalys” on Wednesday to discuss moving the legislation forward.

During the meeting, Zulpukarov cited homosexuality as a devious lifestyle that “is extremely foreign to our customs and traditions and contradicts human nature itself.” On the same day, the deputy stated in front of the Supreme Council (Jogorku Kenesh) that complaints of LGBT hate crimes and requests for antidiscrimination laws fall within what he would define as “gay propaganda.”

Influential leaders from former Soviet states claim anti-gay “propaganda” legislation is needed to protect religious freedom and family values. Like the Russian Federation, their countries are riddled by socioeconomic instability. Using the LGBT community as a scapegoat, authorities aim to distract from failures that have contributed to a declining birthrate, the rise in single-parent families, and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Such rhetoric simultaneously legitimizes homophobia and creates an environment permissive to violent hate crime.

Human Rights First urges the U.S. government to make LGBT rights a priority in its dealings with Russia, and with the countries following its homophobic lead.