Homophobia, often violent, is a problem in Russia and five nearby countries that have enacted or considered imposing anti-“gay propaganda” laws.
None of these countries has a specific law against same-sex intimacy, with the exception of the internationally unrecognized Moldovan break-away territory of Transnistria. But each of them has prohibited or considered imposing prohibitions on positive depictions of LGBTI people.
Two (Russia and Lithuania) have enacted anti-“gay propaganda” laws; two (Kazakhstan and Ukraine) seriously considered but ultimately rejected proposals for such laws; one (Moldava) enacted such a law but then repealed it, and one (Kygyzstan) is currently considering enacting such a law.
LGBTI rights in those six countries are the focus of the following excerpts from the 2015 edition of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The complete reports cover a variety of human-rights issues beyond those excerpted here, including workers’ rights; discrimination against women, children, minorities, indigenous people and others; torture; and civil liberties.
They’re all written from the perspective of the United States, although the U.S. is far from blameless with regard to human rights. Among many current examples, at least 14 U.S. states keep unenforceable anti-gay laws on the books; the United Kingdom has just issued a travel advisory warning about the discriminatory new laws imposed in North Carolina and Mississippi; and the U.S. still struggles to end its historic mistreatment of indigenous people and of racial, ethnic and other minorities.
While the law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, the government did not effectively enforce the law. There were reports of violence against women, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and LGBTI persons.
According to the constitution, no one shall be subject to any discrimination for reasons of origin; occupational, social, or property status; sex; race; nationality; language; religion or belief; place of residence; or any other circumstances. The country does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. During the year a law on “protecting the child” that included a provision that would have prohibited “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” was discussed in the parliament. The Senate chairman sent the law to the Constitutional Council, which declared it unconstitutional.
Although gender-reassignment documentation exists, the law requires a transgender person to fulfill three steps before being able to receive identity documents that align with the person’s outward gender: 1) a month of inpatient psychiatric evaluation, 2) a course of hormone replacement therapy, and 3) approval and completion of gender-reassignment surgery. Those who receive gender-reassignment surgery outside of the country fall outside this process. Many individuals lived with nonconforming documents for years and reported problems with securing employment, housing, and health care.
According to a survey conducted during the year, half of transgender persons indicated that they experienced physical abuse due to prejudice against transgender individuals or did not experience such abuse because their gender identity was unknown. The KIBHR[Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law] noted in a 2015 report, “To this date we have no knowledge of any court cases regarding discrimination [against] sexual minorities.”
Although there were no government statistics on discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there were reports of such actions. According to representatives of international and local organizations, negative social attitudes towards members of marginalized groups, including LGBTI persons, impeded the willingness of the latter to come forward, organize, or seek access to HIV/AIDS programs. Hate crime legislation or other legal mechanisms do not exist to aid prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community. There were no prosecutions of anti-LGBTI violence.
NGOs reported members of the LGBTI community seldom turned to law enforcement agencies to report violence against them because they feared hostility, ridicule, and occasionally violence. They were reluctant to use mechanisms such as the national commissioner for human rights to seek remedies for harms inflicted, because they did not trust these mechanisms to safeguard their identities, especially with regard to employment.