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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:22 am 
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Bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
By Iva Skoch
October 12, 2010

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(Photos: Jackie Dewe Mathews/GlobalPost)

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Munara didn't want to be kidnapped.

Some Kyrgyz girls look forward to the time they get "chosen" by a man, but Munara, 18, already had a boyfriend and hoped to marry him. "If only my boyfriend managed to kidnap me first," she said. Six months ago two men stuffed her into an old Lada automobile and drove her to their house. "I really don't want to be kidnapped. I don't want to get married," she said she screamed at them. "Please let me go," she begged.

They didn't. Few men here take a woman's pleading seriously because girls playing hard-to-get is par-for-the-course during the ritual of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, the mountainous Central Asian country that has suffered brutal inter-ethnic clashes since April. Violence against women has also been on the rise, according to Talaigul Isakunova, an expert on gender issues who works with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The practice was famously parodied in the 2006 film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, in which the main character kidnaps Pamela Anderson because he wants to marry her. This scene is a fictional, yet disturbingly accurate demonstration of the methodology behind bride stealing, except that it is even more prevalent in Kyrgyzstan than Kazakhstan.

Approximately one third of Kyrgyz women marry by means of non-consensual kidnapping, according to Russell Kleinbach, a sociology professor at Philadelphia University who has conducted extensive research into the custom of "kyz-ala kachuu," (or "grab and run") in Kyrgyzstan.

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The rise in kidnapping in recent years is mainly economic.

"It's less expensive," said Kleinbach. People returned to kidnapping because Kyrgyzstan has faced severe economic problems in the last two decades, and many villagers have been able to avoid paying a generous "kalym," (bride price) dowry and providing plentiful wedding gifts by stealing a woman. The other reason is social, Kleinbach says. "It's an alternative for young men who were otherwise dependent on their parents to find them a bride," he said. "The tradition in Kyrgyzstan was for marriages to be arranged."

People in Kyrgyzstan often view bride kidnapping as an ethnic tradition, but studies show that this custom has evolved from a mutual decision into a rather violent incarnation. As a nomadic people, young Kyrgyz couples sometimes used to "elope" to avoid disapproval of their parents. But most Kyrgyz have since settled in villages and, according to Kleinbach, "if you are in a village, kidnapping doesn't really work well."

Kadyr Malikov, director of the Religion, Law and Policy research center in Bishkek said that while 80 percent of people in Kyrgyzstan are Muslim, the custom of kidnapping doesn't stem from Islam. "Kidnapping or marrying without agreement is a big sin in Islam," he said. "Islam tries to regulate the practice by only marrying couples who both agree with the wedding."

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But girls like Munara are typically pressured to consent. Once she was brought into the house of the kidnapper, the matriarch of the family put a white scarf on her head, thereby proclaiming the couple married. The groom then went to the bride's parents' house, announced he kidnapped their daughter and offered kalym of approximately $700 in exchange for her.

Although Munara didn't want to marry him, her family accepted the price and forced her to stay, because bringing a kidnapped girl back into the family home would bring an unbearable stigma. It's generally assumed she'd no longer be a virgin and in a country where the "white sheet test" is still often used, nobody else would marry her.

Bubusara Ryskulova, director of the Sezim crisis center for women in Bishkek said many girls agree to live with the man who kidnapped them because they are shamed into it. "They are told from an early childhood to respect their elders and the elders are telling them to put the white scarf on their head," she said. "It's very big psychological pressure."

"If the girl doesn't agree, she might be raped, have a baby and now she really can't leave," said Ryskulova. "And the men will sometimes say 'you never loved me anyway' which just gives them another excuse for more violence."

But not all women are unhappy in these non-consensual marriages. Many who were kidnapped claim they went on to live a perfectly happy life. "Other women, typically older women, are the ones trying to convince the girls to do it and encouraging the practice to flourish," Ryskulova said. "They will say, 'see, I also got married this way and I'm happy.'"

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Anara Niyazova, head of the law department at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavonic University has a suggestion for halting the practice: stop romanticizing bride kidnapping, and don't infer that the girls were asking for it. "Our culture has a stereotype that girls should behave in ways that's imposed by society. That she provoked the kidnapping herself," she said.

As a result women here rarely start criminal proceedings, even though bride kidnapping has been outlawed since 1994. Moreover, rural youth don't see other marriage strategies. "Village men hardly ever interact with women," Niyazova said. "They sit in a sheep market and when they see somebody they like, they will just take them. [Kidnapping] is caused by an absence of dating skills."

Educated Kyrgyz women, such as Nuraiym Orozobekova, agree that dating methods need to be taught and women need to push back. She became an anti-kidnapping advocate after her mother told her a family friend's son was planning to kidnap her.

"I didn't want to get married this way. I decided to stop this criminal activity," she said. The challenge, Orozobekova said, is that many people in Kyrgyzstan — male and female — still don't see a huge value in women. "It used to be that if you stole a domestic animal they would cut off your finger," she said. "But stealing a woman wasn't prohibited."

Orozobekova has successfully avoided being abducted. She is still single, but now that she is 27, she is most probably too old to be a prime target for kidnapping. "If a boy likes me, he will have to use another method. If he prefers kidnapping, it just means he isn't confident enough to get a girl another way," she said. "I'm not a sheep. I'd like to choose, too."

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Source: Global Post.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:10 am 
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Kyrgyz inmates on hunger strike over prostitute ban
13 December 2011

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Prisoners of the penal colony No. 8 in the village of Petrovka, some 45 kms from the capital Bishkek, wave to photographers.

AFP - Inmates at several prisons in Kyrgyzstan have launched a hunger strike over new restrictions barring them from being visited by prostitutes, a state official said Tuesday.

"Prisoners at seven prisons have refused to take their meals," said Joldochbek Bouzourmankoulov, spokesman for the country's prison sentencing agency. He said the protest was tied to new limits on prisoner visits. "Prisoners had the right for visits from their families and 'other' people," he said. "But under the label for 'others,' they were bringing prostitutes to the prison."

From now on, only relatives with identity cards showing their ties to inmates can visit.

Source: France24.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 4:58 pm 
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Bride-kidnapping debate divides Kyrgyzstan
By Abdujalil Abdurasulov
12 December 2012

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(Image courtesy of UNiTEKG) Campaign groups are working to promote awareness of the law

Kyrgyzstan's parliament is poised to vote on legislation that would toughen the penalty for bride kidnapping.

The bill has caused heated debate, splitting parliament and society into those who defend it as a tradition and those who see it as a violent crime.

The practice of bride kidnapping is widespread in Kyrgyzstan. According to the ombudsman's office, some 8,000 girls are kidnapped for forced marriage every year across the country. The Women's Support Centre (WSC) in Bishkek puts that figure even higher at almost 12,000 cases a year. Most of these cases happen in poor and rural areas.

WSC is part of the network that campaigns against bride kidnapping. Zabila Matayeva, 38, became a WSC volunteer last year after a family tragedy. Her sister, Cholpon Matayeva, was kidnapped for marriage by a husband who beat her frequently. When she finally demanded a divorce after a decade of marriage, he stabbed her to death. He has been jailed for 19 years.

Cholpon barely knew her husband when he abducted her at the age of 19. She did not want to marry him but like many other women, she was afraid to leave him out of shame. "It's like a law, if you are kidnapped then you must stay," Zabila said. "[Cholpon] faced enormous psychological pressure from the groom's relatives. They kept telling her that they too had been kidnapped, and [that] entering the house with tears leads to a happy life afterwards. "She was lost. Cholpon thought her life would end if she left the [groom's] house. This would bring shame on her and the family. She would need to leave the village. So she stayed."

In many cases, the abducted woman is forced to stay for a first night that is effectively rape. After that, most women agree to get married, because otherwise they face huge stigma. If they decide to leave they can be treated as damaged goods, unable to remarry.

Over the past year, activists from various women's organisations have united in "Campaign 155", named after the criminal code article on bride kidnapping. They have held bike rides, street sketches, seminars and other activities to draw attention to the current legislation. They bring cases like Cholpon's to argue that no marriage can be happy if it starts from violence.

'Our tradition'

Under the existing law, a man faces a fine or maximum of three years in prison for abducting a woman for marriage against her will. The new bill proposes increasing that to seven years, after an initial suggestion to make it 10 years.

"It is outrageous," says Rimma Sultanova from WSC. "The punishment for cattle-stealing is 11 years and for abducting a girl is maximum three years."

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Ainuru Altybayeva, an MP who initiated the bill, says very few cases get to trial under the current legislation. The main reason is that legal action starts only after a victim files a suit. However, this rarely happens because victims of bride kidnapping do not generally want to draw attention to themselves. But if the changes are adopted then bride kidnapping will be categorised as a grave offence. "This will mean that the state in the face of prosecutors and law-enforcement bodies can initiate legal action themselves without waiting for the victim's lawsuit," Mrs Altybayeva explained.

Not all legislators support the bill though. Some claim that it goes against Kyrgyz tradition and may have serious implications for society. "We will put all men in Kyrgyzstan in prison if we increase the punishment for bride kidnapping," said MP Kojobek Ryspaev, during a discussion of the bill at a parliamentary session earlier this year.

Opponents of the changes claim bride kidnapping plays an important role in society. Parents and relatives relentlessly pressure young men in Kyrgyzstan to marry after they reach a certain age. For many, especially for poor families, this is the cheapest and quickest way to marry their son. If the new law is passed then all relatives who are somehow involved in the process of kidnapping may face a prison term.

"This is a tradition that existed and will exist no matter what law you adopt," Bishkek resident Bobek, 48, said, voicing an opinion that appeared to be shared by many. He said the law would only fuel corruption, as men would bribe their way out of trouble. Another MP, Kurmantay Abdiyev, believes that the legal changes will have little effect. "By toughening sanctions we will not prevent people from committing a crime," he told the BBC.

Mrs Altybayeva agrees that new laws will not solve the problem right away. But she says they can demonstrate the government's stance on the phenomenon. "By declaring bride kidnapping a crime and not a tradition the government can help to change people's minds," she said.

Source: BBC.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:45 am 
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Kyrgyzstan cracks down on bride snatching
26 January 2013

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Oksana, a victim of bride kidnapping as she walks along a road near her village of Kalinin-Tashbashat, 40 km from the city of Naryn, Kyrgyzstan 05 March 2007.

AFP - Kyrgyzstan on Saturday signed into law harsher measures against men who kidnap women to force them into marriage, introducing prison terms of up to 10 years.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev signed new legislation punishing men who snatch brides with up to seven years in prison. Previously men faced only three years in jail for forcing a woman into marriage, and abduction was not considered an aggravating circumstance.

The Central Asian state also raised to 10 years the maximum sentence for men who abduct girls under the legal marriage age of 17 to enter a "de facto marriage". Previously the maximum jail term was seven years.

Officials have long urged harsher punishments for those who abduct women for marriage in the largely Muslim ex-Soviet state. Former Kyrgyz president Roza Otunbayeva estimated in 2011 that 15,000 women become victims each year.

The practice began as a way of avoiding paying bride money or bypassing parental disapproval in Kyrgyzstan, which was largely nomadic until late in the Soviet era. But it has now become common for men to snatch women with whom they are not in a romantic relationship and force them into abusive marriages that often end in divorce or even suicide.

Source: France24.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:25 am 
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Top Kyrgyz Mufti Steps Down Amid Sex Video Leak − Report
7 January 2014

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) – Kyrgyzstan’s grand mufti has resigned following a scandal over a leaked sex video allegedly showing him committing adultery with a young woman, Radio Liberty reported on Tuesday.

Grand Mufti Rakhmatulla-Hajji Egemberdiev stepped down days after the sex romp video started circulating online on New Year’s Eve prompting a protest calling for his resignation earlier this week, the report said.

Egemberdiev, who is also suspected of tax evasion, maintained that the unidentified woman on the tape is his second wife, even though polygamy is officially illegal in Kyrgyzstan. In an interview with Radio Liberty, he insisted that the tape’s release was a political move orchestrated in order to replace him with a more loyal mufti. The new grand mufti will be elected at a Congress of Kyrgyz Muslims on February 8, the report said.

Egemberdiev has become the sixth mufti replaced in Kyrgyzstan in the past four years amid a series of allegations.

Source: RIA Novosti

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:00 am 
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Kyrgyzstan: Report documents widespread physical and sexual abuse of gay men by police
29th January 2014
by Nick Duffy



Human Rights Watch accuse the Kyrgyz police of anti-gay abuses Human Rights Watch accuse the Kyrgyz police of anti-gay abuses

A report by a leading human rights group has claimed that gay and bisexual men in Kyrgyzstan face extortion, beatings, illegal detentions and even rape from the police force.

Although sex between men was decriminalised in the state in 1998, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released today found that gay men face regular oppression and abuse from the police. The report is based on detailed interviews with gay and bisexual men across Kyrgyzstan, and alleges that police specifically target gay men in parks, gay clubs, hotel rooms, and on dating websites.

Fathullo F, a 32-year-old man, told HRW that in May 2012 he was invited on a date by what he thought was another gay man, but when he arrived police handcuffed him and took him to the police station. They beat him, forced him to write a confession, and to give them contact information for his family and employer. They proceeded to extort money from him, and contact information for other gay men. He said: I asked them to let me sit down because I was tired. They said that I didn’t deserve to use their chair and spat on me. They said that I didn’t deserve to live, and threatened to destroy me if I didn’t give them 10,000 soms (£120)”

Another man, Demetra D from Bishkek, spoke of how he was abused by police on four occasions between 2004 and 2011, when police raped him, attempted to rape him, or allowed other detainees to rape him. He said: “They took their batons, beat us, and then told us that they would fuck us with the batons. They didn’t want to listen to our pleas. They said that we are f*gs and deserve this, and that we don’t deserve to be on earth. After they raped us, they left us there. We had to walk back.”

Human Rights Watch want the Kyrgyz government to step in to stop the abuses. Anna Kirey, LGBT rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: “Gay and bisexual men in Kyrgyzstan already live in fear due to widespread homophobic attitudes, and the police are making a nightmarish situation even worse. Kyrgyzstan authorities at the very top levels need to call a halt to this police abuse and make sure that gay and bisexual men have the protection they need.”

Source: PinkNews.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:38 am 
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Kyrgyzstan LGBTI activists call for international help against ‘gay propaganda’ ban
21 July 2014
By Andrew Potts

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A gay-rights demonstration in Kyrgyzstan (undated)

LGBTI activists in Kyrgyzstan have called on the global LGBTI community to come to their aid before they are silenced by a bill before the parliament that would go even further than Russia’s ban on so-called ‘homosexual propaganda to children’ by banning any public discussion of LGBTI issues.

The group of Kyrgyz activists have set out five ways that people can help out – the first of which is to use all means to spread word about the bill by contacting their governments, international organizations and inform them about the proposed draconian law – particularly by using social media. The second way they would like people to help is by organizing online and real world protests against the bill.

They would like to see protests held outside Kyrgyz embassies and consulates around the world in order to put pressure on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and on the Kyrgyz Parliament. The activists would particularly like public officials from ‘non-Western’ countries such as those in Asia and South America to issue statements against the proposed law and for LGBTI affirming Muslim leaders to speak out against the bill.

The activists would like large corporations that operate in Kyrgyzstan to speak out against the bill, such as Coca Cola, Nokia, Apple and the Kumtor Gold Company. The activists would also like to be informed of any action taken against the bill so that they can communicate them to Kyrgyz lawmakers.

The activists are not asking any government to cut development aid to Kyrgyzstan but they would like any foreign funded programs to ensure they are addressing the needs of LGBTI Kyrgyz people. However they would like to see governments around the world put sanctions against those have been instrumental in pushing for the bill – including travel bans and freezing their finances. Finally the activists are asking for governments to be aware of the discrimination that LGBTI people face in Kyrgyzstan so that those who need to seek asylum will be assessed properly.

For those who would like to get involved the following are contacts for English speaking Kyrgyz human rights activists who have gone public:

-Dastan Kasmamytov (Danik), dastanurbek@gmail.com
-Ruslan Kim, ruslan.kimm@gmail.com
-Syinat Sultanalieva, sultanalievas@gmail.com
-Amir Mukambetov, a.mukambetov@gmail.com

Source: GayStarNews.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:54 pm 
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Kyrgyzstan: Gay Men Face Rampant Police Abuse – Report
January 29, 2014
by Joanna Lillis



Gay and bisexual men in Kyrgyzstan are routinely subject to violence, sexual abuse, and extortion by police, a report by global watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) published on January 29 found.

“Gay and bisexual men are easy targets for abuse due to deep social conservatism," HRW said. “Pervasive homophobia in society and widespread police corruption contribute to these abuses.” Many of the 40 men interviewed for the study “reported ill-treatment in police detention, including being punched, kicked, or beaten with gun butts or other objects,” HRW said.

Some “reported sexual violence by police officers, including rape, group rape, attempts to insert a stick, hammer, or electric shock device inside the victim’s anus, unwanted touching during a search, or being forced to undress in front of police.” On occasion the abuse “rose to the level of torture.”

HRW released disturbing video of men recalling their ill-treatment at the hands of police in Kyrgyzstan, which decriminalized consensual sex between men in 1998. “They detained me, drove me to their office, undressed me, abused me in many ways, hit me, tormented me with a beer bottle, a coffee can, metal hangers, and they kicked me,” one interviewee, Mikhail Kudryashov, recalled. “I still have a lot of scars and marks from the beating.”

Kudryashov – who was fired from his job, disowned by his relatives, and threatened with excommunication by his church after information about his sexual orientation became widely known – took his case all the way to the Supreme Court to try and prove he was tortured, but failed to gain legal redress. “They put plastic bags on our heads and told us to get undressed,” another man identified only by his first name, Demetra, said. “They abused us and hit us in the face. I’m still missing teeth.”

“Police in Kyrgyzstan target gay and bisexual men, extorting money from them and beating them up, telling them that they will disclose their sexual orientation to their family,” HRW researcher Anna Kirey said. “One of the first cases we documented was the case of two gay men raped and beaten severely for three days continuously in police custody.”

The report urges the Kyrgyz government to “acknowledge the scope and gravity of the problem of police violence and extortion against gay and bisexual people in Kyrgyzstan, and commit to taking all necessary steps to end these abuses.” It includes a list of recommendations to ministries, law-enforcement agencies, and human rights bodies, and urges Western governments to condemn police violence against gay and bisexual men and make financial and other support available for training for LGBT rights (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) organizations and the security forces.

LGBT communities frequently face prejudice in conservative Central Asian societies. As EurasiaNet.org reported last fall, members faced a barrage of homophobic outbursts in Kazakhstan’s parliament last year which have continued into 2014.

Source: Eurasianet.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 7:22 pm 
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Estonia approves same-sex partnerships
By JARI TANNER
October 9, 2014

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FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2006 file photo, Gay pride parade participants kiss in the streets of Tallinn, Estonia. Estonia's Parliament narrowly passed legislation to legalize gay partnerships on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, making it the first former Soviet republic to do so. (AP Photo/AFI, Toms Kalnins, File)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Estonia on Thursday became the first former Soviet nation to legalize gay partnerships, while Kyrgyzstan — another ex-Soviet republic thousands of kilometers east — considers anti-gay legislation.

The parallel moves reflect starkly divergent paths taken by the countries that once were parts of the Soviet empire.

In Estonia, lawmakers voted 40-38 vote to approve a partnership act that recognizes the civil unions of all couples regardless of gender. Twenty-three lawmakers were absent or abstained in the third and final reading of the bill.

The new law will gives those in civil unions — heterosexual or gay — almost the same rights as married couples, including financial, social and health benefits provided by the government and legal protection for children. It does not give adoption rights for couples in such unions but does allow one partner to adopt the biological child of the other. It comes into force in January 2016, after it has been signed by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves who supported the bill.

The Estonian Human Rights Center hailed the vote as "historic," saying it would send a strong message to neighboring Russia, which passed what it called "a draconian anti-gay law" last year. "Estonia (has) made a leap toward a society that is freer, more equal and values human rights for all," the group's director, Kari Kasper, said.

The United States also welcomed the new law. "The U.S. government supports equal treatment under the law for all groups and believes the new cohabitation bill extends important rights and protections to unmarried couples and their families," the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn said in a statement.

In contrast with Estonia, lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation about 3,500 kilometers (some 2,170 miles) east, on Thursday began considering a bill that would make gay "propaganda" punishable by a prison term of up to one year. Kyrgyz rights activists saw the bill as a copycat version of a Russian law adopted last year that prohibits vaguely defined propaganda to minors of "non-traditional sexual relations" and has provoked international outrage.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished mostly Muslim Central Asian nation on China's mountainous western border, has cultivated close ties with Russia and aspired to become a member of a Moscow-led economic bloc. The bill's authors have described it as a necessary measure to support "traditional family values."

Estonia, which like Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for almost five decades, is considered the most Western-oriented of the former republics, with a long history of cooperation with its liberal-minded Nordic neighbors. However, there has been little tolerance of gays in the small Baltic nation of 1.3 million, particularly among the sizeable ethnic-Russian minority and in rural areas where traditional values prevail.

The law has been under preparation for years and stirred one of the fiercest public debates since the country regained independence in 1991.

Leila Saralayeva in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, contributed to this report.
Source: Yahoo! AP.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:42 pm 
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U.S. raps Kyrgyzstan for proposed "gay propaganda" law
October 13, 2014
By Olga Dzyubenko

(Reuters) - The United States has condemned Kyrgyzstan for planning to adopt legislation to ban "gay propaganda", saying the law discriminates and will hurt the Central Asian nation's fragile civil society.

Last week Kyrgyzstan's parliament started debating changes to the nation's legislation which propose introducing tougher punishment for "popularising homosexual relations" and "propaganda of a homosexual way of life". The new bill proposes to slap fines or prison terms of up to one year on those "forming a positive attitude to untraditional sexual relations" among minors or in mass media.

"No one should be silenced or imprisoned because of who they are or whom they love. Laws that discriminate against one group of people threaten the fundamental rights of all people," the U.S. embassy in Kyrgyzstan said in a statement. "Sweeping limits on civil society harm democracy."

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished nation of 5.5 million which borders China and lies on a drug trafficking route from Afghanistan, is struggling to build the first parliamentary democracy in authoritarian post-Soviet Central Asia. Its two presidents have been deposed by popular revolts since 2005. The proposed bill has to be passed in three readings and then be signed by the president to become a law.

The U.S. embassy called on Kyrgyz parliamentarians "to oppose legislation that would criminalize expressions of identity or limit civil society". Human Rights First, a U.S.-based rights advocacy and action group, urged the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama last week to publicly condemn Kyrgyzstan's proposed anti-"propaganda" law and press the government to stop the passage of "this blatantly homophobic legislation".

It said the Kyrgyz bill emulates a similar law in Russia. Russia, which provides economic support for Kyrgyzstan and has a military air base in the country, came under barrage of Western criticism after President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning gay "propaganda" in June last year. Critics said that law had effectively disallowed all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals. Putin also banned same-sex couples from adopting Russian children.

"It is unclear how this bill will move in (Kyrgzstan's) parliament. The draft law is still at a very early stage, and so far no one is ready to comment on it," said Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Kadyr Toktogulov. However, both pro-government and opposition factions in the legislature have already mostly spoken in favour of the proposed law, with some deputies calling for making it even tougher.

(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)
Source: Reuters.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2014 6:01 pm 
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Kyrgyzstan votes for anti-gay ‘propaganda’ bill
October 15, 2014
by Colin Stewart

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Kyrgyz parliament (Jogorku Kenesh) building

The parliament of Kyrgyzstan voted today for an anti-gay “propaganda” bill modeled on Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law.

The proposal, which still needs two votes in parliament and a presidential signature before becoming law, would outlaw all LGBT groups operating in the former Soviet country, as well as allowing possible prison sentences for individuals guilty of promoting “non-traditional” sexual relations. Critics of the bill have noted that the punishments for breaching the new laws are even harsher than current punishments being seen under Russia’s anti-“gay propaganda” law.

As a country, Kyrgyzstan has a largely conservative Islamic community, with around 80 percent of the population identifying as Muslim. The government of the country has maintained close ties to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Anti-gay sentiment is common in Kyrgyzstan and concerns have been raised that this new bill would legitimise homophobia and hate crimes in the country. Earlier this year, the international group Human Rights Watch reported on Kyrgyz police subjecting LGBT men to physical and psychological torment and threats of violence. In response to those claims, the country’s Interior Ministry alongside leading religious figures failed to recognise the crimes and used the incident as a chance to voice further anti-gay hate speech.

Criticism of the bill has been seen internationally, with many LGBTI and human rights groups quickly condemning the bill when it first came to parliament. In an official statement made earlier this week, the United States embassy in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, said that if the bill were to pass it would cause serious damage to the nation’s civil society.

Support for the legislation was widespread among Kyrgyz lawmakers. The parliament passed the bill by 79-7.

Proponents of the legislation say it would provide support for “traditional families” and would combat the supposed damage done by Western ideologies supporting the LGBT community. Critics have however claimed that the bill’s authors, including Kremlin-backed Kurmanbek Dyikanbayev, are attempting to strengthen ties to Russia at the expense of sacrificing the LGBT community.

The parliament have recently been accused of pro-Russian political posturing in the run up to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, which is set to begin in 2015 and which Kyrgyzstan is currently attempting to join. Similar criticisms were also raised regarding another Russian-inspired bill which would limit the activities of foreign NGOs by reducing the rights of “foreign agents.”

However, despite large-scale support for the bill in parliament, some parts of Kyrgyzstan were vocally against any proposed changes.

Responding to an earlier draft of the law, the Bishkek-based LGBT group Labrys stated that the new legislation contradicted the country’s current constitution. They also expressed fears that LGBT individuals would become further targets for violence after being denied what little support they still have when groups such as Labrys are forced to cease operation.

In response to the bill, Labrys launched a support campaign calling upon LGBTI supporters globally to condemn the actions of Kyrgyzstan’s government and to support the country’s LGBTI community. The group have expressed that they intend to fight the new laws with the support of the international community, though concerns have been raised over whether legal prosecution will force the group to close.

Source: 76Crimes.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 6:40 am 
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Gays fear new law will drive them out of Kyrgyzstan
By Olga Dzyubenko
November 2, 2014

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Maksat Hajji Toktomushev, Kyrgyzstan's grand mufti

BISHKEK (Reuters) - A draft law banning "homosexual propaganda" in Kyrgyzstan could be the last straw for the Central Asian country's frightened gay community.

Some are thinking of leaving the mainly Muslim state bordering China if the law is passed by parliament, mirroring a move last year by Russia that outraged the West and was seen by critics as part of a broader crackdown on civil society.

Backed by Muslim clerics who say homosexuals are "psychologically ill" and should be cured, the law follows what gays say is growing intimidation, police abuse and beatings. The law would impose a one-year jail term for "forming a positive attitude to untraditional sexual relations" among minors or in the media.

However, the draft does not clarify exactly what would contravene the legislation relating to minors or what the media may not publish, leading critics to say that in its current shape the law is vague and leaves a lot of room for interpretation and abuse by authorities. The law's backers have made clear they expect it to go much further than the protection of minors or curbs on the media, and they predict a crackdown on a wide spectrum of activities, such as gay rallies, clubs and cafes. The law has already won initial approval in the first of three readings in parliament and will require President Almazbek Atambayev's signature to become law, which is expected to happen in due course given deep-rooted homophobia in Kyrgyzstan.

"If this draft law, which is still being debated, is finally adopted, I will be forced to leave the country, along with the others (gays)," a smartly dressed 23-year-old man told Reuters, giving his name only as Sultan for fear of retribution. "The entire atmosphere is getting more threatening," he said, recounting how he and a small group of friends were beaten up by waiters in a bar when they realized they were gay.

Sultan spoke in a small house hidden in a maze of crooked alleyways on the edge of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, one of a handful of safe meeting places for the local LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender) community. Bishkek, a city of 1 million people, has only one gay club - with bouncers on guard for homophobic visitors. He said gangs in Bishkek had started to "hunt" for members of the LGBT community, sometimes befriending them on social media sites, arranging a meeting and then beating their victims or threatening them before extorting money. In August, one such group kidnapped a gay man and drove him into the countryside where they told him to dig a grave for himself before beating him up, Sultan said.

"TRADITIONAL VALUES"

Consensual sex between men was a crime in Soviet times but Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished country of 5.5 million, adopted a new criminal code in 1998 that made it legal. Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have also taken similar steps but the two other ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, have not. Kyrgyzstan would, however, be the first of them to ban "gay propaganda" among minors.

Backers say the law will protect traditional values, similar reasoning given by Russian lawmakers whose "anti-gay" law prompted some Western leaders to boycott the Winter Olympics hosted by President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. "We supported this bill, because it reflects the hopes and expectations of our voters willing to protect the traditional family," Kurmanbek Dykanbayev, one of the initiators of Kyrgyz bill, said. "And from now on, there will be no possibility to arrange gay clubs, gay cafes or to hold gay rallies."

The next reading could be held as early as this week.

Maksat Hajji Toktomushev, Kyrgyzstan's grand mufti, said there should be no discussion of gay issues. "These are psychologically ill people, their psyche is destroyed," he told Reuters. "They need to be cured ... I would have banned from the very beginning any discussion of this. This is bad, this is decay and depravity. God does not tolerate this issue, even mere discussion of it."

"VIOLENCE, BLACKMAIL, EXTORTION"

The U.S. embassy in Bishkek has urged Kyrgyzstan not to adopt the law, saying it is discriminatory and will hurt civil society in the country, which is struggling to build the first parliamentary democracy in post-Soviet Central Asia. Two presidents have been deposed by popular revolts since 2005. Atambayev, 58, won a presidential election after the second revolt toppled Kurmanbek Bakiyev as president in 2010. Atambayev has given up some of his predecessor's wide powers and has in general shown a readiness to compromise with the opposition to preserve a fragile peace, but has not indicated whether or not he will sign the law.

Mihra Rittmann, a Central Asia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), called the law "discriminating, homophobic and repressive". "If it is adopted, this could have negative consequences for the marginalized LGBT community in Kyrgyzstan," she said. In a report based on interviews with 40 gay and bisexual men in Kyrgyzstan, HRW listed allegations of police violence which it said stemmed from "pervasive homophobia" in the country. "Violence, blackmail and extortion by police, and a lack of accountability for these crimes, are all too common in Kyrgyzstan, but those who belong to minority groups are particularly vulnerable," it said.

Many of the men interviewed by HRW also reported ill treatment when in police detention, including being punched, kicked or beaten. Several said police had threatened to rape them with objects such as a bottle or coat hangers.

Zhorobai Abdraimov, a spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's police, said he had not seen the report but denied the facts it cited. "There is no police repression against LGBT people," he said. "There are no registered facts of them (gays) being beaten or tortured. Where do they get these facts? They don't report to us, they concoct these reports."

SOCIAL PRESSURE

Human rights groups say pressure is fierce for men in Kyrgyzstan to conform to stereotypical male appearances, marry women and have children.

Sultan's mother was shocked when he told her he was gay and she took him to see mullahs, priests, psychologists and psychiatrists. The doctors said he was not ill but his father still says Sultan has "smeared his honor" and must get "that nonsense" out of his head. When Sultan was beaten up by waiters, friends persuaded him not to report the incident to the police or complain to the bar owner so as "not to make things worse".

Echoing rights activists' concerns about the similar Russian law, some critics say the legislation could be used to muzzle anyone who speaks openly about gay rights including journalists, civil society activists and human rights groups. Abdraimov dismissed such concerns, saying it was important "to respect our mentality and not to fan passions". "This is a forbidden theme and one need not get people excited," he said. "How many gays are there in Kyrgyzstan? Two or three? On this issue, we must listen to the majority."

(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Giles Elgood)
Source: Reuters.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:26 pm 
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Anti-gay bill clears key vote in Kyrgyzstan parliament
24 June 2015

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (AFP) - Lawmakers in ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of a law activists say discriminates against homosexuals, in the crucial second of three mandatory readings of the bill.

The bill, which would punish "propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation" with jail terms of up to a year and appears a harsher version of a law adopted by ally Russia, has generated concern among activists in the ex-Soviet Central Asian state. Lawmakers passed the bill with 90 MPs voting in favour and only two voting against.

The second reading was originally expected to go ahead in February but was delayed. A third and final reading of the law is expected in the autumn ahead of legislative elections in October.

Dastan Kasmamytov, a gay rights activist in the country, told Gay Star News: ‘If someone votes against this bill, that means he’s gay. If someone is seen supporting gay rights, that means they support the "gay agenda" or is against "traditional values". ‘No lawmaker will vote against it because of the pressure. But we will see.’

In April, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev completed a ten-day tour of several European countries during which he promoted his country's democratic credentials. The European Parliament warned in a January resolution that the bill "could affect relations with the EU" which provides budget support and other assistance to the aid-dependent country. In March, Human Rights Watch said the bill "would not only violate free speech, it would encourage discrimination and violence against Kyrgyzstan citizens."

Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergoup, said: ‘It is unacceptable that people might again be put in jail for being who they are, or even for sharing objective information about different sexual orientations.’ ‘We urge Kyrgyz law makers not to follow the example of countries like Russia or Uganda, and take their country back to the stone age, but rather join the growing number of European countries where all citizens are equal, free and safe.’

Vigilante groups strongly opposed to homosexuality have gathered momentum in the cash-strapped country in recent years. Experts warn that Kyrgyzstan has serious problems with the rule of law despite a mixed political system and a vibrant civil society.

Last month Kyrgyz authorities opened a criminal investigation into an alleged attack on members of Kyrgyzstan's marginalised gay community who had gathered to mark the International Day Against Homophobia. No one was charged for the attack, which saw several self-styled patriotic groups invade a café on the outskirts of the capital Bishkek and intimidate a meeting of 20-30 people.

Kyrgyzstan is also considering a law that would brand non-governmental organisations receiving funding from abroad as "foreign agents." The bill, which critics say is another copycat of Russian legislation, was passed at its first parliamentary reading earlier this month.

Source: Yahoo! AFP

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