The Presidential Palace in Kazakhstan's capital, Astan (WWM)
The Presidential Palace in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana (World Watch Monitor)

Kazakhstan has drafted amendments to its religion laws that will further tighten restrictions on religious freedoms, reports regional news agency Forum 18.

The changes focus on the religious freedom of children and parents and could reach parliament for ratification as early as December.

The latest October draft states that one parent or guardian must give permission for a child under 16 to attend a religious service, and also accompany that child, reports Forum 18. The child cannot attend if one parent objects. The latest draft amends a stricter version from August, which stated that both parents had to give written permission. The October draft has also removed August’s proposed permanent ban on religious organisations for first-time violations, according to Forum 18.

It is expected that the final version of the amendment will also see higher fines, and tighter control over state censorship when it is applied to religious literature.

Christians and other religious communities already face severe restrictions when expressing their faith. In September a Protestant church community was banned from meeting because they sang religious songs at a summer camp. As it was a first-time offence the state could only punish the church with a three-month ban, but the amended law will allow fixed fines to be imposed at the first offence rather than the second.

Kazakhstan’s clampdown on religious freedoms over the last few years has seen churches frequently raided and property seized. Meanwhile in July the Supreme Court forced the Jehovah’s Witnesses to suspend operations in the country.

The latest amendments apply to the Kazakhstan Religion Law ratified by President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 11 October 2011 – the same day that Kazakhstan applied for full membership of the Venice Commission, whose primary task is to help member states improve and protect their human rights. The 2011 Religion Law and its subsequent amendments continue to ignore UN Human Rights Committee recommendations on protecting religious freedoms, said Forum 18.