By Anna Kirey

Today I learned that two people I knew from Kyrgyzstan’s LGBT community died. They were both in their 30s. One of them, a transgender woman, had been the victim of violent abuse on multiple occasions by both police and unidentified assailants. In one incident in the summer of 2008, three men raped her, but despite evidence of bruising and burns to her nipples and genitals, the police in Bishkek refused to register her complaint. The assaults did not stop and no-one was ever held accountable. She passed away from health-related causes. 

The other person, a gay man who was very well known to the community, ran local parties for LGBT people. He passed away from a stroke.

What this transgender woman endured was horrible; I never spoke with the gay man about any consequences he faced in coming out of the closet. But this I do know – no one should have to suffer because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Yet expressing that opinion in writing could mean facing administrative, or even criminal, sanctions in Kyrgyzstan if parliament adopts a new, homophobic bill, bluntly titled “On forming positive attitude to non-traditional sexual relations.” Today the bill’s sponsors officially registered it in parliament for consideration. The bill would impose criminal and administrative sanctions on mass media, independent groups, and others who disseminate information about LGBT people. The language of the bill is so vague that any information about LGBT people may be classified as “propaganda.”

Since the bill was introduced for public discussion on March 26, there have been multiple cases of harassment of activists who spoke about LGBT issues. Just last weekend a group of unidentified men attacked several gay men outside a gay club in Bishkek. This feels like déjà vuto me. I documented violence against LGBT people in Russia and Ukraine after similar “propaganda” bills were introduced in those countries. 

Exactly one week ago, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Europe’s foremost human rights body, granted “partnership for democracy” status to the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan’s media described PACE’s decision as “historical.” But can Kyrgyzstan’s parliament live up to PACE’s standards?

The resolution accompanying this decision explicitly stated that the Kyrgyzstan Parliament should not “follow up on the draft bill drawn up on the model of laws on the prohibition of ‘homosexual propaganda’.” PACE is unequivocal about protecting LGBT people from discrimination and violence – It would behoove Kyrgyzstan’s parliament to do the same.

Accurate information and protection is needed to prevent violent abuse like that experienced by my friend, not discriminatory laws.