HRC Blog

LGBT Ad in Kazakhstan Creates Controversy

Post submitted by Miguel Amador, HRC Global Engagement Intern 

A controversial advertisement from Kazakhstan, depicting great Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly and renowned Russian poet Alexander Pushkin kissing, won an award at Red Jolbors Fest in Kyrgyzstan. The advertisement is for Studio 69, a prominent gay club located in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan. The poster was designed by advertising firm Havas Worldwide-Kazakhstan and is a play on the club’s location, the intersection of Kurmangazy Street and Pushkin Street.

Following the award, the advertisement is facing significant backlash. Many argue that the poster offends the image of the two great personalities and promotes non-traditional sexual relations. One citizen published a photo on Facebook of a complaint that he filed with the Prosecutor’s Office stating that the poster was “insulting the dignity of the (Kazakh) nation.” A descendant of Kurmangazy has even threatened to sue for moral damages. Since its negative reception, Havas Worldwide-Kazakhstan has published an apology on its Facebook page and announced that the poster will not be printed, posted or published in paid media.

This advertising campaign would be illegal in neighboring Russia, where there are numerous laws limiting the publication of information regarding the LGBT community. Similarly, in another bordering country, the Kyrgyzstan Parliament's human rights committee recently approved an anti-LGBT bill that would criminalize any statements and actions that support LGBT equality as well as any statements that could be seen as promoting “unconventional” sexual orientation in a positive way. There have been calls for Kazakhstan to introduce its own laws banning so-called public ‘homosexual propaganda.’ 

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