Controversial Petition on “LGBT Propaganda” Passes Threshold for Consideration in Kazakhstan


A petition against so-called “LGBT propaganda” has received more than 50,000 signatures, meaning Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Culture and Information must consider it. However, a number of experts believe that restrictions on the gay community would damage Kazakhstan’s image. In addition, the petition’s authors are known for their controversial initiatives. 

The Kazakhstan Parents’ Union is the author of the petition “We are Against Open and Concealed LGBT Propaganda in the Republic of Kazakhstan,” which was published on the official portal. According to Article 90-4 of the Administrative Procedural Code, the government must consider a petition with 50,000 signatures. A working group including interested parties, government agencies, and public associations will be created. The consideration of official petitions are a relatively recent innovation. So far, only three have collected the required number of signatures. The first came in the wake of the Nukenova murder at the hands of a disgraced former minister.  It was considered by the Kazakhstan president himself and brought about landmark legislation on domestic violence. The decision to allow public input via petitions is seen as a sign of the fulfillment of President Tokayev’s promise of a more engaging and aware “listening state.”

Kazakhstan has seen repeated attempts to include in various legislative acts such a ban on promoting “nontraditional relations.” However, these amendments were not adopted, though numerous Mazhilis (lower chamber of parliament) deputies and public figures spoke out in favor of them.

Nevertheless, there have been cases in Kazakhstan where media products containing what is deemed “homosexual content” did not reach the market. For example, in 2022, the former Minister of Culture and Information, Dauren Abaev, announced that, “In response to numerous requests from citizens and the media, I inform you, the animated film Lightyear will not be shown in Kazakhstan.” Officially, however, the ministry did not prohibit the screening of the Hollywood animation in cinemas. According to rumors, distributors themselves canceled showings in response to the public outcry. Also, in January 2024, a website for LGBT people was blocked in Kazakhstan. The site, among other things, had materials to help young people answer questions about their sexual orientation.

“During monitoring of the internet resource, a violation of the law was identified related to the posting of information harmful to the health and development of children,” the Ministry of Culture stated in justifying blocking the site.

The head of the group pushing the current petition, Bagila Baltabaeva, stated that, “Same-sex love is being openly forced on our children. It is forced [on them] in bookstores, on TV screens, and on smartphones. Young people openly spread [information about] and promote their unhealthy relationships. Thus, stealthily and subtly, new standards of sexual relations are taking shape among young people. In parallel, it is promoted that traditional values are relics of the past, a sign of backwardness. Therefore, for fear of criticism, many remain silent. And those who work up the courage and speak out against LGBT propaganda are branded as retrogrades and conservatives.”

This is not the first controversial initiative of the Kazakhstan Parents’ Union. Representatives of the group have previously campaigned against tougher penalties for violence against women and children and vaccinations. Intense debate was recently sparked on social media by statements made by Parents’ Union members against the new law on domestic violence. When the bill was being discussed, they tried to scaremonger by claiming that the law would lead to a “machine in Kazakhstan for the removal of children and the breakup of families.” Mazhilis deputies who were working on the bill had to publicly explain that the removal of children from families was not being considered whatsoever.

A number of public figures have come out against such a ban even being discussed in the halls of government. Feminist and activist Aigerim Kusayynkyzy believes that the recent petition violates basic rights enshrined in the constitution. “Persecution of a person for their sexual orientation and gender identity is a gross violation of their rights. The number of countries facing the crisis of homophobia is growing every day. Together with human rights experts, we are raising the issue of how to combat homophobia. If you want to become a leading country in terms of human rights, I hope such inhumane laws will not be passed,” she said on social media.

Khalida Azhigulova, a human rights activist and lawyer who was a member of the Mazhilis working group that helped develop the law toughening punishment for domestic violence, called the petition illegal: “I believe that such a petition is unconstitutional, as it violates the constitutional principle prohibiting discrimination under any circumstances, and transmits hatred and intolerance toward an entire social group. Such a petition should not have been posted on the official state petition website in the first place. No reputable international petition platform would ever allow such a hateful and discriminatory petition to be posted, and our state petition platform should not turn into an instrument of obscurantism and hatred. The fact that at least 50,000 people signed the petition would cause serious concern in real democratic regimes where human rights are valued. A ban on so-called LGBT propaganda would be a gross violation of Kazakhstan’s international human rights obligations.”

Neighboring Russia recently passed a law banning “LGBT propaganda,” following which administrative cases were opened against numerous activists.