In most of the world, right-wing government officials who want to ban same-sex relationships do it by outlawing male homosexuality. But it’s lesbianism that’s riling up some members of parliament in Kazakhstan.
This week, a deputy in the lower house, Nurlan Abdirov, told the legal affairs committee that “special themed sessions and round tables” will be held regarding punishment for “lesbianism and other aspects of the sexual and gender sphere.” No further details were provided.
Targeting lesbianism rather than homosexuality in general is an interesting tactic. Most of the countries with proposed or approved laws against same-sex relationships are countries that already consider women to be the inferior sex. Men are men, after all, so to see two together seems like a bigger violation of “traditional values.”
How We Know
Abdirov is certainly one of the supporters of traditional values. According a biography compiled about him, he has risen through the ranks as a technocrat with a criminology background, specifically dealing with counter-narcotics and drug trafficking. His standard solution for dealing with a perceived problem is to try to make it illegal. And virtually all of the post-Soviet states see homosexuality as problem.
One reason Abdirov and other MPs are singling out lesbians: In April 2013, a symbolic, interracial lesbian wedding was held in the country, a first not only for Kazakhstan but for all ex-Soviet states. Local LGBT rights advocates organized the event, which was celebrated publicly, to call attention to discrimination.
Here are pictures of the wedding of Karolina and Kristina, courtesy of Kazakh photojournalism site Vox Populi:
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Eurasia.net noted back in October 2013 that “homophobic rhetoric is on the rise” amongst Kazakh government officials, and also pointed out such statements bring the reality in the country one step closer to the ridiculous Borat caricature made famous by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.
But it’s less about Borat and more about possibly following Russia’s lead in the culture war against LGBTs. Russia passed a bill banning “homosexual propaganda” last summer, meaning no one can talk to minors about the mere existence of gay people or hold pride parades and rallies. The controversial bill has elicited much outrage ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
In the sphere of former Soviet states, Russia still wields a lot of influence. Deputy Bakhytbek Smagul called for a similar propaganda-banning bill in Kazakhstan late last year, saying, “This phenomenon [of homosexuality] damages the image of our country and its domestic policy.” Smagul (no relation to Smaug) also wonders how gay men can effectively guard Kazakhstan’s borders.
In other news, three of Kazakhstan’s top 10 Internet porn search terms involve lesbianism.