Following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) announcement that Kazakhstan was not selected to host the 2022 Olympic Games, Human Rights First Friday urged the U.S. government to continue to pressure Kazakh lawmakers uphold human rights, specifically the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The group says the Obama administration should press Kazakh lawmakers not to reintroduce a discriminatory propaganda law. The organization also urged the IOC to reinforce its commitment to human rights by ensuring that awarding the games to Beijing won’t result in the targeting of local dissents opposed to the games.
“As the international spotlight leaves Kazakhstan, homophobic policymakers will be tempted to once again move forward legislation that would threaten the human rights of Kazakh’s LGBT community,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “The U.S. government should urgently speak out against the reintroduction of a propaganda law, and make clear that passage of such a law will be damaging to diplomatic relationships.”
“Even if the Olympics had not passed us by, the Kazakh LGBT community would still be under threat and subject to constant discrimination. I hope that our government will not go the way of Russia and enact a law banning propaganda of homosexuality, which would worsen the situation in the country. For now, the LGBT community in Kazakhstan needs support and unity,” said Kazakh activist Sergey Astafyev, Chairman of LGBT organization ACTIV.
The previous propaganda bill was invalidated by Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Court in May because its wording was unclear. A faction of lawmakers declared their intent to reintroduce the bill when the objections from the Constitutional Court have been addressed. The original bill was introduced to ban the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientations” and would have created a ban on propaganda similar to the ban that currently exists in Russia.
The Constitutional Court’s rejection of the bill coincided with the IOC’s consideration of Kazakhstan for the 2022 Olympic Games. Following the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the IOC updated Principle 6 – the Olympic Charter’s non-discrimination clause – to explicitly include sexual orientation as a protected class. The Kazakh court decision would have guaranteed that Kazakhstan met requirements of the Olympic Charter with regard to non–discrimination.
Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government work to prevent the spread of Russian-style anti-“propaganda” laws in the surrounding region. Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Stop Russia from Exporting Homophobia,” details how Russia’s homophobic laws and policies have spread throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and outlines key steps that the U.S. government can take to stop the spread of laws and policies which infringe on the human rights of the LGBT community.
The announcement of China’s Olympic bid comes as the Chinese government has engaged in a recent crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers. Earlier this month, police detained more than 200 human rights lawyers, activists, and their family members, and some are still in custody. The government has denied them access to their own attorneys. Additionally, Chinese lawmakers have proposed legislation that would regulate foreign NGOs and nonprofits, drastically restricting Chinese civil society.