Gays fear new law will drive them out of Kyrgyzstan
By Olga Dzyubenko
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. Continued...