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Russia’s LGBTI crackdown is fuelling anti-gay hate in the region

Russia’s LGBTI crackdown is fuelling anti-gay hate in the region

Uniform Police walking away from camera in Kyrgyzstan

LGBTI human rights groups in countries near Russia are facing more hostility. The reason is because of their powerful neighbor’s crackdown on the LGBTI community

A new report published by Amnesty International showed that not only were LGBTI activists under threat by they were being ostracized by human rights groups are themselves.

The 62-page report is called, ‘Less equal: LGBTI human rights defenders in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan’. Those four countries – which are Russia’s closest allies in the region – have all recently started a crackdown on LGBTI rights.

Amnesty found that crackdown appears to mirror repressive anti-LGBTI rhetoric and practices coming from Moscow.

‘The idea, promoted by Russia, that LGBTI rights are ‘western values’ that somehow constitute a threat to national security, is entrenching elsewhere,’ said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director.

All four countries have attempted to introduce gay propaganda laws, similar to Russia’s. Only Belarus has done so, adopting a variation of Russia’s law last year.

Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have changed their constitutions to explicitly preclude same-sex marriages.

LGBTI groups in each of the former Soviet republics have faced a raft of repressive government tactics to silence them. With few exceptions, gay pride marches have been banned or have become the targets of attacks by homophobic groups. Police were also generally failing to prevent hate crimes or properly investigate them afterwards.

Freedom of association is limited for all LGBTI activists – and while in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan a small number of NGOs working on LGBTI rights are registered, only activists and informal groups are active in Belarus and Kazakhstan.

A prominent LGBTI activist in Belarus told Amnesty he could no longer continue with his work as ‘the personal risks were too great’. He had lost several jobs because of his activism and faced repeated police questioning.

Most of Amnesty’s interviewees in all four countries wished to remain anonymous due to security concerns or other possible ramifications.

‘LGBTI activists have long faced discrimination, including among other human rights groups,’ Krivosheev said.

‘Now the extent of Russian influence and the reach of its media has played a significant role in further worsening the situation for LGBTI groups in the region.

‘State authorities in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan must ensure that LGBTI groups can carry out their human rights work in safety and without any discrimination.’

Discrimination from human rights groups

To make matters worse, Amnesty’s report found LGBTI human rights activists in the four countries feel ‘less equal’ even within their local human rights communities.

‘It’s a climate of ignorance and hate that’s being fostered by national governments and is even infecting the human rights community in the region,’ Krivosheev said.

Activists in Kyrgyzstan said ‘no-one wants to be associated with us’.

For LGBTI groups in each country, the lack of support from the broader human rights community is the biggest source of demoralization and frustration.

‘LGBTI activists not only bear the social stigma of being marginalised and ostracised by society, they are also treated as second-class rights defenders within their human rights communities,’ Krivosheev said.

‘Amnesty International calls on human rights groups across the region to work alongside LGBTI rights organisations, united by the principle of the universality of human rights.’