Bills under Review by Kyrgyz Parliament Threaten Civil Society

June 22, 2015

In Kyrgyzstan, two bills that present formidable threats to civil society and constitutionally-protected liberties are currently under review by Parliament. Echoing Russia’s policies toward NGOs, the “foreign agents” bill aims to intensify government oversight of such organizations under the pretext of national security. This bill not only extends to public authorities the right to intervene in the internal affairs of any NGO that receives foreign funding, but also forces such organizations to register as “foreign agents” or otherwise cease to operate within Kyrgyzstan. A second draft law known as the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” bill restricts citizens from disseminating information about homosexuality and LGBT issues.

The first reading of the foreign agents bill was approved by Parliament two weeks ago and requires two more readings as well as the president’s signature before it becomes the law, while the propaganda bill remains pending after a first-reading approval last October. Recently, nationalist organizations such as Kalyst have stepped up their attempts to expedite the approval process by violently disrupting gay and lesbian organizing efforts and publically displaying their support for the bills.

The passage of these bills would threatens citizens’ liberties and the survival of civil society, and a handful of NGOs in Kyrgyzstan have taken a stand against these violations of fundamental human rights. Still, opposition to these measures can put organizations at risk of attacks, as these bills come amid increasing state-sponsored harassment toward supporters of LGBT rights and freedom of association. Bir Duino, WLP’s partner in Kyrgyzstan, was recently subject to such attacks in response to their efforts. Bir Duino experienced several robberies conducted by nationalist organizations, and last March, security officials raided their offices, seizing legal material on more than 100 criminal cases of torture and other forms of injustice. The raid was followed by targeted searches and summons of human rights lawyers of Bir Duino and elsewhere.

Women’s Learning Partnership condemns these acts of intimidation toward Bir Duino. We support their continued work to prevent the passage of these measures into law, as they are discriminatory, institute authoritarian controls over civil society, and ultimately threaten Kyrgyzstan’s continued democratization.

Click here to read an OpenDemocracy article on an anti-LGBT rally (quotes Tolekan Ismailova)

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