LGBT rights in Kazakhstan

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LGBT rights in Kazakhstan
  • homosexuality decriminalised nationwide since late 1997 de facto, since 1998 de jure
  • age of consent is equalised and full legalisation since late 1997
Gender identityYes, transgender people allowed to change legal gender following surgery, medical examinations, hormone therapy and sterilisation since 2003
MilitaryYes, gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve in the military since 2022[2]
Discrimination protectionsNo law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex couples
RestrictionsCode on Marriage and Family explicitly bans persons of the same sex from marrying each other.
AdoptionAdoption by single LGBT people recognised, but not by same-sex couples

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Kazakhstan face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT citizens. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Kazakhstan, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.[1]

Since the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan decriminalised both male and female same-sex sexual activity in late 1997 de facto (since 1998 de jure) and the age of consent was equalised to that of heterosexual activity in late 1997 de facto (since 1998 de jure). Transgender people have been allowed to legally change their gender since 2003. LGBT people are also allowed to serve in the military since 2022.[3] LGBT rights in Kazakhstan remain severely limited and homosexuality remains highly stigmatised in Kazakhstan society, with no LGBTQ NGOs, strong overtones of official intolerance and no equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation in areas such as employment, education, media, and the provision of goods and services, amongst others.[4]

The influence of Islam and socially conservative attitudes against gay and lesbian men and women remain firmly entrenched throughout the country. Many people in Kazakhstan believe that homosexuality is a behavioural disorder, and many LGBT persons in Kazakhstan tend to hide their sexual orientation in public. Those who are "out" face harassment, violence and physical abuse.


Genghis Khan banned homosexual acts in the Mongol Empire and made them punishable by death.[5]

LGBT history in Kazakhstan has been marked by periods of both tolerance and persecution and dates back to the early 20th century, when homosexuality was first decriminalised in 1917 following the October Revolution, which established the Soviet Union.

The Bolshevik government was influenced by the ideas of Magnus Hirschfeld, a German scientist who argued that homosexuality was a natural manifestation of human sexuality. However, in 1933 the Soviet Union re-criminalized homosexuality as part of a broader campaign against "deviant" behaviour. Discrimination against LGBT individuals persisted in the Soviet era, and homosexuality was not officially declassified as a mental illness until 16 July 1997 de facto, since 1998 de jure.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Decriminalisation process[edit]

Both male and female same-sex sexual activity have been legal in Kazakhstan since late 1997, when under the revised criminal code same-sex relations between consenting adults was no longer a criminal offence.[1] Prior to 1997, Article 104 of the Penal Code of Kazakhstan used to criminalise "buggery". This legislation followed the corresponding Section 121 from the former Soviet Union, which only specifically criminalised anal intercourse between men.[6] In late 1997 the law was repealed and replaced with a common age of consent for all sexual activity of 16 years. Lesbianism was never a criminal offence. In 1998, consensual sex between same-sex couples became lawful. There are currently no provisions in the Constitution of Kazakhstan that criminalise any aspect of same-sex sexual relations.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Kazakhstan LGBT Rainbow Flag

Since 2003, transgender individuals have been allowed to change their legal gender on their official identity documents in Kazakhstan. People who wanted to change their gender had to receive a diagnosis of "gender identity disorder" involving several medical tests and a 30-day psychiatric evaluation.

In 2011, new guidelines were established and allowed change to identity documents only after sex reassignment surgery, physical and psychiatric medical examinations, hormone therapy and sterilization. Additionally, people under 21 are not allowed to change their gender on their official identity documents.[7][8]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Kazakhstan does not recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Adoption and parenting[edit]

As of 2023, same-sex couples could not legally adopt children in Kazakhstan.[citation needed]

Discrimination protections[edit]

The violence and discrimination against LGBT people in Kazakhstan are fairly common and often not reported to the police. No laws exist yet in Kazakhstan that protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, health care, public accommodations or credit.

Blood donation[edit]

There are no restrictions on gay and bisexual men from donating blood by the Government of Kazakhstan.[9]

Military service[edit]

On 14 June 2012, Defense Minister Adilbek Zhaksybekov was reported to have declared that gay men are not welcome in the nation’s military, saying that they are exempt because they have ‘a disorder of sexual desire’.

Since 2022, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly in the military.[2] The ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan in 2022, said in an interview that no one is banned from serving in the military because of their sexual orientation.

Freedom of speech and expression[edit]

Kazakhstan wrapped in the colors of the rainbow flag

On 26 May 2015, the Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan declared a pending bill, which would have banned the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation", unconstitutional. The council rejected it because of its vague wording. The bill passed the Senate, Parliament's upper house, in February 2015 and was sent to President Nursultan Nazarbayev for signature. It had already been approved by the lower house.[10] Human Rights Watch said: "By rejecting this propaganda bill, Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Council set an important precedent against the adoption of discriminatory legislation."

In September 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case that two women would receive compensation from a Facebook user who posted a video showing them kissing without their permission. The video solicited a large number of homophobic and murderous comments, and was viewed 60,000 times in a day before being taken down by the user. Human Rights Watch hailed the ruling as a milestone for privacy rights.[11]

Public opinion[edit]

In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, an LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI). Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society's view on homosexuality, how do they experience the way they are treated by other people and how satisfied are they with their lives. Kazakhstan was ranked 118th, just above Ghana and below Burkina Faso, with a GHI score of 29.[12]

According to a June 2015-June 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center, 89% of people in Kazakhstan opposed same-sex marriage, with only 7% supporting it.[13]

LGBT rights movement[edit]

Online communities and news portals, sorted by founding date, descending[edit]

  • 2015: Femenita (in Russian) is a grassroots, queer-feminist activist group working on advancement of LBQ women’s rights and freedoms and dignified life on the basis of systematic feedback loop from the communities in Kazakhstan.
  • 2017: (Kazakh: Köktem), the first LGBT mass media in Kazakhstan (in Kazakh) (in English) (in Russian)
  • 2018: AmanBol (in Kazakh) (in Russian) is the first HIV self-testing program in Central Asia, dedicated to providing service for MSM and transgender persons in Kazakhstan.

Living conditions[edit]

LGBT people in Kazakhstan face discrimination and prejudice on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity during the course of their everyday lives. Manifestation of negative attitudes toward LGBT people, such as social exclusion, taunting, and violence, often cause the victims physical, psychological and emotional harm. In order to avoid the dangers posed by people who do not approve of non-heterosexual sexual orientations, many LGBT people feel compelled to keep their sexual orientation or gender identity a secret from almost all people in their lives. The majority regard it as necessary to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity from people in the workplace in order to retain their jobs and avoid hostility from bosses and co-workers. Attempts to report homophobic and transphobic violence to police are often met with resistance and even hostility on the part of law enforcement officers.[14]

A 2011 cross-national study by the University of Chicago demonstrated that a growing trend of LGBT acceptance was either slowed or reversed in Russia and some other former USSR republics, a direct opposite of world trends.[15]


According to a 2018 survey, conducted by the Republican Centre for AIDS Prevention and Control and the Kazakh Ministry of Health, there were about 62,000 men who have sex with men in Kazakhstan; about 6,000 in Almaty, 3,300 in Astana, and 4,900 in Karaganda Region.[16] This number, however, is expected to be much higher, due to societal homophobia which may prevent individuals from coming out.

United Nations[edit]

Kazakhstan has opposed landmark LGBT reforms at the United Nations. In 2011, it opposed the "joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity" at the United Nations.[17]

Notable individuals[edit]

  • Abdel Mukhtarov, singer and LGBT rights activist[18][19]
  • Adil Liyan, producer/journalist
  • Altynai Kambekova, LGBT rights activist[20]
  • Anatoly Chernousov, LGBT rights activist[21]
  • Amir Shaikezhanov, LGBT rights activist
  • Binazir Ermaganbetova, humour blogger/singer[22]
  • Daniyar Sabitov, LGBT rights activist[23]
  • Farema Kazakpayeva, singer[24]
  • Gasan Akhmedov, LGBT rights activist[25]
  • Gulzada Serzhan, LGBT rights activist[26]
  • Natasha Maximova, the Kazakh-born first transgender woman on a magazine cover in Russia.[27][28]
  • Ninety One, Q-pop boy band[29]
  • Nurbibi Nurkadilova, LGBT rights activist and Zamanbek Nurkadilov's granddaughter[30]
  • Nurlan Alimkhodzhaev, visagiste[31]
  • Zarina Baibolova, stand-up comedian[32][33]
  • Yan Ray, fashion photographer
  • Zhanar Sekerbayeva, LGBT rights activist[34]
  • Ziruza, Q-pop singer/songwriter[35]

Summary table[edit]

Yes/No Notes
Same-sex sexual activity
Same-sex sexual activity legal No Since 1997 de facto, since 1998 de jure, nationwide[36] (Lesbianism was never a criminal offence)
Age of consent equalised and full legalisation (16) Yes Since 1997
Discrimination laws
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in the media No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Anti-discrimination laws concerning gender identity in all areas No
LGBT sex education and relationships taught in schools No
Hate crime law includes sexual orientation and gender identity No
Same-sex unions
Same-sex marriages No Code on Marriage and Family explicitly bans persons of the same sex from marrying each other.[37]
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. unregistered cohabitation, life partnership) No
Adoption and children
Adoption by single homosexuals in Kazakhstan or (in case of Kazakhstani children) in foreign countries that do not recognise same-sex marriage Yes No restrictions based on sexual orientation for single people to adopt
Adoption of Kazakhstani children by single homosexuals or same-sex couples in foreign countries that do recognise same-sex marriage Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Access to IVF for lesbians and automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth No Only for married couples and single women may access IVF treatments
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No Both altruistic and commercial surrogacies are not banned and legal for heterosexual couples
Military service
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes Since 2022[38]
Transgender rights
Right to change legal gender Yes Since 2003; but requires sex reassignment surgery, sterilization, hormone therapy and medical examinations
Transgender identity declassified as an illness No
Ability to change legal gender without a psychiatric or psychological evaluation No
Ability to change legal gender without court approval No
Ability to change legal gender for minors No
Ability to change legal name without a psychiatric or psychological evaluation No
Transgender people can change gender marker without sterilisation No
Right to change legal gender without having to end marriage No
Third gender option No
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
Homosexuality declassified as an illness No
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes Legal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b "В Минобороны ответили на вопрос о сексуальных меньшинствах в армии". Tengrinews. 25 February 2022. Retrieved 5 May 2022.
  3. ^ "В Минобороны ответили на вопрос о сексуальных меньшинствах в армии". Tengrinews. 25 February 2022. Retrieved 5 May 2022.
  4. ^ "Kazakhstan's first LGBTQ magazine is committed to creating a community against the odds".
  5. ^ Pritchard, Gemma (29 August 2007). "Genghis Khan's constitutional ban on homosexuality revealed". PinkNews.
  6. ^ "KAZAKHSTAN". Archived from the original on 31 January 2011.
  7. ^ "Violations by Kazakhstan of the Right of Transgender Persons to Legal Recognition of Gender Identity" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  8. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | Kazakhstan: LGBT Community Living in Fear". Refworld.
  9. ^ "How to become a blood donor?". 6 December 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  10. ^ Kazakhstan: Anti-Gay Laws Found Unconstitutional Human Rights Watch
  11. ^ "Kazakhstan Supreme Court Upholds Privacy Rights". Human Rights Watch. 24 September 2019.
  12. ^ The Gay Happiness Index. The very first worldwide country ranking, based on the input of 115,000 gay men Planet Romeo
  13. ^ "Support for same-sex marriage in Central and Eastern Europe (2016) | LGBTQ+ Surveys".
  14. ^ "Unacknowledged and Unprotected: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Kazakhstan by Soros Foundation". Archived from the original on 26 March 2012.
  15. ^ Cross-national Differences in Attitudes towards Homosexuality by NORC/University of Chicago Archived 26 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Over 80 Nations Support Statement at Human Rights Council on LGBT Rights » US Mission Geneva". 22 March 2011.
  19. ^ "For freedom. For equality. For love. For Kazakhstan 🇰🇿🏳️‍🌈". Instagram. 13 March 2020.
  20. ^ "Карта гражданского активизма в Казахстане". 13 January 2023.
  22. ^ "Бика Бризи совершила официальный каминг-аут". 13 March 2023.
  24. ^ "Известные казахстанские знаменитости с нетрадиционной ориентацией". 13 January 2023. Archived from the original on 13 January 2023. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  25. ^ "После Каминг-Аута Может И Лучший Друг Зарезать". 13 January 2023.
  26. ^ "Карта гражданского активизма в Казахстане". 13 January 2023.
  27. ^ "Tatler makes history as first Russian magazine to feature a trans cover star". 11 March 2020.
  28. ^ "Tatler makes history as the first Russian glossy magazine to feature a transgender cover star". 11 March 2020.
  29. ^ "Kazakhstan's 'Qazaq-pop' boy band Ninety One challenges gender norms". 13 March 2020.
  30. ^ "Kazakhstan: Lesbian activist receives threats after responding to homophobic MMA fighter". 13 January 2023.
  31. ^ "Нурлан Алимходжаев об ЛГБТ: У каждого найдется друг или коллега-гей". 13 March 2020.
  32. ^ "Что переживает ЛГБТ-подросток, перед тем как открыться родителям?". 13 March 2020.
  33. ^ "Известные казахстанские знаменитости с нетрадиционной ориентацией". 13 January 2023. Archived from the original on 13 January 2023. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  34. ^ "Карта гражданского активизма в Казахстане". 13 January 2023.
  35. ^ "В нетрадиционной ориентации заподозрили Зирузу после откровенного видео". 13 March 2020. Archived from the original on 13 January 2023. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  36. ^ "State Sponsored Homophobia 2016: A world survey of sexual orientation laws: criminalisation, protection and recognition" (PDF). International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. 17 May 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  37. ^ "Кодекс о браке и семье, 1 статья, 1 пункт, 35 подпункт". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  38. ^ "В Минобороны ответили на вопрос о сексуальных меньшинствах в армии". Tengrinews. 25 February 2022. Retrieved 5 May 2022.

External links[edit]