Amnesty International says groups that defend LGBT rights are facing a rise in hostility in parts of the former Soviet Union, fueled by discrimination, homophobia, and what it called Russia's crusade against "nontraditional sexual relationships."
Released on December 22, the report by the global human rights watchdog found that LGBT rights groups in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan were facing an "increasingly discriminatory environment."
Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said that while lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex activists had long faced discrimination in those four countries, the situation has worsened due to “the extent of Russian influence and the reach of its media.”
“The idea, promoted by Russia, that LGBTI rights are ‘Western values’ that somehow constitute a threat to national security is entrenching elsewhere. It’s a climate of ignorance and hate that’s being fostered by national governments and is even infecting the human rights community in the region,” said Krivosheev.
The governments of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, Russia’s closest partners in the region, have all embarked on a crackdown on LGBT rights in recent years, the report said.
All four countries have attempted to introduce what it called homophobic legislation similar to a 2013 Russia law outlawing the distribution of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" to minors, which rights groups say has encouraged discrimination and violence against gays and essentially prohibited gay-rights rallies. So far, only Belarus has done so, adopting its version of the Russian law in 2016.
Armenia and Kyrgyzstan amended their constitutions to explicitly ban same-sex marriages in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Amnesty said that with few exceptions, gay-pride marches were banned in the four countries or were frequently targeted by homophobic groups, with police doing little to intervene or investigate hate crimes.
Only a few NGOs that work on LGBT rights were registered in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. In Belarus and Kazakhstan, only activists and informal groups were active, the Amnesty report said.
As a result of this discrimination, LGBT human rights defenders and activists have come to feel even “less equal” within their local human rights communities, Amnesty said.
The human rights watchdog said all four countries were dominated by “mainstream” human rights groups that do not primarily work on LGBT rights.