On 20-25 October Labrys participated in the work of the 42nd Session of the UN Committee on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, as reported earlier. There was some very intensive lobbying and advocacy done around the event with Committee Members during several informal lunches, Informal Meeting of the Committee with NGOs, and other venues.

On 18 November the Committee released its Concluding Observations to the Third Periodic Report of Kyrgyzstan on the implementation of the Convention. Observations number 43 and 44 directly touch upon the issues of sexuality with regards to women’s issues.

43. The Committee is concerned about reports of discrimination and harassment against women because of their sexuality as well as about acts of harassment against women in prostitution by police officials.

44. The Committee urges the State party to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the Convention applies to all women without discrimination and to further take all necessary steps to protect them from all forms of discrimination and violence by public and private individuals.

This goes in line with the strategic interests of the LGBT movement in Kyrgyzstan, as well as with the lobbying goal of Labrys during the 42nd CEDAW Session. Even one  mention of the issue of sexuality in a homophobic and patriarchic country such as Kyrgyzstan is an achievement and a great step forward. Thus, it may be concluded that Labrys’ advocacy with the CEDAW proved to be successful. Alga, Labrys!

Now together with other women’s NGOs that participated in the review of the Third Periodic Report of Kyrgyzstan at the 42nd Session Labrys will focus on mainstreaming the Concluding Observations. As part of this strategy, Labrys will also collaborate with governmental institutions on gender equality and progress of women on elimination of discrimination on bases of sexual orientation or gender identity of women and men in Kyrgyzstan.

Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | November 10, 2008

Labrys awarded the Go Visible Special Prize

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization Labrys has won the Special Prize of the “Go Visible” Award for achievements in defence and promotion of LGBTI rights at the 24th ILGA-World Conference in Vienna, Austria.

Awarded for the first time, the Go Visible Award has been initiated and donated by Ulrike Lunacek, Member of Parliament in Austria and Co-Spokesperson of the European Green Party. The award aims to recognize the hard work of LGBTI organizations worldwide with steady and regular projects and significant impact both on national and international levels.

The international jury panel is comprised of 15 independent human rights activists, professionals and opinion leaders, who based their choices on creativity and sustainability of candidate organizations, impact on media, and organizational focus on empowerment of women.

The Go Visible Award ceremony greeted the three representatives of Labrys, who have been invited as scholars to the 24th ILGA World Conference in Vienna, with a long round of standing ovations – both from partner organizations of Labrys from CIS and individual activists.

The Go Visible Award has inspired Labrys to achieve even more in defence and promotion of LGBT rights within the hostile environment of largely homophobic Kyrgyzstan. This recognition is very important to Labrys, its staff and volunteers, who do their work relentlessly and without any personal vanity.

Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | October 24, 2008

UN updates: Kyrgyz government avoids facing LBT issues

23 October

Geneva, October

The delegation of Kyrgyz Republic to 42nd CEDAW session presented its Third Periodic Report to the distinguished Committee Members on 23 October, focusing on the achieviements the country has made in guaranteeing advancement of women there. The government stressed on the introduction of 30% quota for women in state institutions and the parliament, and bragged about numerous courses on gender sensitivity and gender theory being introduced largely and everywhere in the school and university curricula.

The report lasted for about an hour, after which the Committee Members started asking questions on the report and the additional information provided by Shadow Reports of NGOs from Kyrgyzstan. Majority of questions centered around the issues of bride kidnapping, forced marriage and maternal mortality, as well as violence against women. In this regard, one of the Committee Members, Ms Sylvia Pimentel, asked a question on the plight of LBT women in Kyrgyzstan. More precisely, she asked how did the government of Kyrgyz Republic ensure and whether it actually did ensure the protection and promotion of human rights of women with alternative sexuality and/or gender identity. The second question on LBT issues (also from Ms Pimentel) was whether the issue of homophobia was covered in efforts of the Kyrgyz Republic to eliminate gender stereotypes in education.

The answers to these questions were less than satisfactory and openly misleading. To the first question one of the representatives of the governmental delegation said that they acknowledged the problematics of LBT issues, and that they realized the need for further research into the issue. This goes into straight conflict with what the governmental delegation told Labrys in an inofficial setting in Geneva, i.e. the impossibility of raising the LBT issues in the country because of the unreadiness of Kyrgyz people to accept it.

The answer to the second question was not actually even an answer. The member of the governmental delegation made her way around the question, making a point of saying that courses on gender sensitivity and gender in general are included in all school curricula of the country.

So overall the answers of the Kyrgyz delegation were highly unsatisfactory, but on the other hand – it is a progress for the CEDAW Committee Members to start raising these issues, and two questions are a good count. Now here is to hoping that LBT issues are included in the Concluding Comments to the government of Kyrgyz Republic next week.

Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | October 23, 2008

UN update: CEDAW lunch briefing on Kyrgyzstan

23-24 October

Geneva, Switzerland

Several NGOs from Kyrgyzstan (Labrys, Tais Plus, NGO Tendesh, Forum of Women’s NGOs, Women’s Support Center) organized a lunch briefing for 8 CEDAW Committee Members on 23 October. Along with pizzas and Swiss berry tarts, the committe members were offered additional information on the situation of women in Kyrgyzstan. This information was in response to what the Third Periodic Report of Kyrgyzstan on implementation of the CEDAW convention said. While the governmental report contends that the situation of women is steadily improving in Kyrgyzstan and their economic, social, political rights are being ensured – the NGOs from Kyrgyzstan spoke about the situation from a different point of view.

On behalf of LBT people in Kyrgyzstan, Labrys said that they experienced intersectional discrimination. In other words, first of all they are already discriminated because they are women, and in addition to that they are also discriminated because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Thus, issues that women face in Kyrgyzstan such as high rates of unemployment, lack of political representation, social disrespect, violence against women both public and private, bride kidnapping and forced marriage – were amplified for LBT people.

It was also said that while ‘sodomy’ was decriminalized in Kyrgyzstan, there were still provisions for forced ‘sodomy’ and ‘lesbianism’. Labrys contended that there should not be any differentiation in penalties – rape is a rape, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity of the perpetrator. Differentiation is already discrimination and ground for further violence and humiliation of LBT.

We further informed the Committee Members that there was also no state mechanism that would allow transgender people to change their documents in accordance with their gender identity. This deprives them of the basic opportunity to enjoy their rights to employment, personal safety, and right to fulfilling life, which they deserve as human beings.

The CEDAW Committee Members were exceptionally interested in hearing on the situation of LBT people in Kyrgyzstan, which was contrary to the expectations, and thus very inspiring. The eight members that came to the Kyrgyz lunch briefing expressed their concern with the unemployment problems of LBT people, who are often forced out of their jobs or are forced to work at extremely poorly paid jobs, which are also dangerous for their health – because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The committee members were also alarmed with the fact that transgender people in Kyrgyzstan were deprived of the opportunity to have their legal identities changed in accordance with their social identity, which excluded them from any and all social networks, isolating them into the most marginalized and ostracized group.

Labrys finished the lunch briefing presentation on LBT people’s situation with the latest information received from negotiations with the governmental delegation to the UN. Labrys representative asked the head of Kyrgyz delegation whether it would be possible to include anti-discriminatory legislation on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity into general Kyrgyz legislation anytime soon. The whole delegation shook their heads and said: “You know that yourself – Kyrgyz people are not ready for such radical changes.”

Labrys thus asks – which people was the government thinking about? And are not Kyrgyz LBT women also people of Kyrgyzstan? Are not they citizens of Kyrgyz Republic just like everybody else? Then why are their rights not considered to be worth guaranteeing?

When women were fighting for their rights some hundred years ago – men, who were considered to be the “people” also were not ready for such radical changes. And yet, women did not stop their struggle.

These questions need political will of political leaders, and regardless of what the governmental delegation says – ALL women of Kyrgyzstan deserve protection of their human rights, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. And what is important is that:

CEDAW Committee Members agreed. They will push for LBT rights at the reporting time of Kyrgyz delegation, which is taking place as I am writing this. Let us keep our fingers crossed that those Committee Members will take up on their promise and nail the Kyrgyz government down with regards to discrimination and violence against LBT.

Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | October 23, 2008

UN Updates: LBT lunch and formal meeting with CEDAW

20 October 2008

Geneva, Switzerland

‘Labrys’ made a statement about its report on the situation of lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people in Kyrgyzstan during an informal lunch for CEDAW Committee members.  Eight members participated in the meeting organized by LBT organizations from Mongolia, Ecuador and Kyrgyzstan with support of COC-Netherlands and IWRAW-Asia Pacific.

In a formal meeting of the CEDAW Committee with NGOs, ‘Labrys’ made a two-minute statement about the situation of lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people and women selling sex in Kyrgyzstan.  Details on statements from other organizations are here.

Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | October 19, 2008

Live updates from 42nd CEDAW Session

Geneva, Day 1 (October 18, 2008)

Today was the first day of the “From Global to Local” mentoring programme organized by IWRAW-Asia Pacific for NGOs from 8 reporting countries signatories to the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. We reviewed various ways of lobbying and advocating for critical issues of women’s movement in our countries, got a little bit of an inside look into the Committee members, and discussed some common issues.

Before we got very deep into the reviewing process, however, there was an exercise that grouped training participants into country groups to discuss critical issues and come up with a list of overall questions that we would like to raise. The impression Labrys got from this exercise was that mainstream women’s NGOs are very reluctant about including issues of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The prevailing idea was that SOGI was not that important to be given a separate spot in the list of critical issues, and that problems of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women were already included in the general problems of women in Kyrgyzstan. 

We do agree with that – economic and political problems of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are the same as heterosexual and heteronormative women experience. But on the other hand, being of an alternative sexuality with an alternative gender identity makes lesbian, bisexual and transgender people subject to double or – INTERSECTIONAL – discrimination. They are discriminated basing on their gender, but in addition to that, they are also discriminated basing on their alternative sexuality and alternative gender identity.

It took Labrys quite an amount of insistence to put sexual rights as one of the points in the list of critical issues, however, it was clear that there could not be any reconciliation: Labrys will have to deliver a separate Oral Statement to the CEDAW committee members. We want our voice to be heard, and not lost within the voice of mainstream women’s movement that softly but stubbornly refuses to acknowledge our  existence.

Announcement for 19 October: Look out for the draft of Labrys Oral Statement!

Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | October 17, 2008

Labrys advocacy efforts this fall

This fall is different from previous four falls by being advocacy fall for Labrys. We are speaking in Geneva at 42nd CEDAW Committee Session where Kyrgyzstan is reporting. Human Rights Watch issued a report recently about violence against lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people in Kyrgyzstan. Labrys executive director Anna Kirey wrote an editorial about the report and personal and activist experiences of violence.

Kyrgyzstan: Protect Lesbians and Transgender Men From Abuse
European Institutions Should Help End the Violence

(Bishkek, October 6, 2008) – Lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men face violent abuse, including rape, in Kyrgyzstan, both in family settings and from strangers on the street, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued today. The report calls on the Kyrgyz government to acknowledge the problem and protect the victims, and on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other European institutions to step up their response to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Based on detailed interviews, the 49-page report, “These Everyday Humiliations: Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan,” tells of beatings, forced marriages, and physical and psychological abuse faced by lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men. The government refuses to protect them or to confront the atmosphere of prejudice in which the attacks take place.

“No one should have to confront brutality or danger because of who they are or whom they love,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “It is time for the government to protect these communities instead of denying they exist.”

The report notes that the OSCE, which conducts programs in Kyrgyzstan, works to combat hate crimes and identity-based violence throughout Europe. However, the United States and the Holy See have blocked including sexual orientation in its mandate.

Several people interviewed for the report said they had been raped to punish them for not conforming to gender norms, or to “cure” them of their difference. One lesbian told how, when she was 15, her girlfriend’s brothers raped her brutally, saying: “This is your punishment for being this way and hanging around our sister.”

Another woman told Human Rights Watch that an acquaintance locked her in a room and allowed several men to rape her. The men promised the acquaintance “that they would help her to ‘cure’ me” of being a lesbian, she said.

Pervasive social prejudice in the Central Asian country leaves the victims with little hope of government protection, the report says. The police themselves sometimes abuse lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men. Police have also raided and harassed organizations that defend the basic rights of these groups.

In all of Kyrgyzstan, only one shelter for survivors of domestic violence – run by a nongovernmental organization – offers specific services for lesbians or transgender people.

A sweeping law passed in 2003 should protect all victims of domestic violence. However, the report found that much more needs to be done to carry out the law, including training criminal justice officials to investigate domestic violence and educating the general public about the law’s provisions.

The government has ignored the need to address issues of sexual orientation or gender identity. In some cases, officials have actually endorsed hatred and violence. In 2005, a Ministry of Interior official said of lesbians and gay men at a human rights roundtable: “I would also beat them. Let’s say I walk in a park with my son. And there are two guys walking holding each other’s hands. I would beat them up too.”

While Kyrgyzstan has made efforts to respond to violence against women overall, some groups are still ignored or excluded. Human Rights Watch called on Kyrgyz authorities to improve direct services for lesbians and transgender men; to train state officials in issues of sexual orientation and gender identity; to educate the public about domestic violence and sexual-rights issues, and to create measures for legal identity change to respect and recognize each person’s self-defined gender identity.

Human Rights Watch also urged the OSCE to address human rights issues, including discrimination and violence against lesbians and transgender men, in its trainings for police and other programs in Kyrgyzstan.

“Programs to stop violence will not work unless they reach everyone who is vulnerable,” Dittrich said. “Europe should not join Kyrgyzstan’s government in turning a blind eye.”

“These Everyday Humiliations: Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan” is available at:

http://hrw.org/reports/2008/kyrgyzstan1008/

LGBT issues are now often included in discussions at the UN level which is a positive development.  At a recent speech made at World AIDS conference Ban ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, said, “I call on all countries to live up to their commitments to enact or reinforce legislation outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups. I call on them to follow Mexico’s bold example and pass laws against homophobia‘.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also takes steps in addressing human rights violations against LGBT people. Due to international efforts of sexual and reproductive health groups a lot of information is gathered and presented about the sexual and reproductive rights of LGBT people in different countries. Labrys participated in researching and preparing reports for Universal Periodic Review on Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Please, find the summary of information about LGBT rights in these countries below taken from UPR reports.

Azerbaijan

Sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination

Sexual relations between men in Azerbaijan were decriminalized in January 2001 possibly due to its being a pre-requisite for membership in the Council of Europe.

Transgender women who engage in sex work in the streets are the group which suffers the highest level of abuse from both law enforcement bodies and society. Gender reassignment surgeries and hormonal therapy are not available in Azerbaijan which considerably limits transgender women’s access to employment. Organizations working on LGBT issues in Azerbaijan report constant police abuse of transgender sex workers including arbitrary detention, blackmailing, physical and sexual violence. Sex work is not criminalized in Azerbaijan but police frequently conducts raids. In May 2007 28 transgender sex workers aged 18 to 37 were forcibly detained and taken to a police station were they were forcibly tested for STIs and HIV.  During the raid they were severely beaten and there were two gun shots made into the air to scare them. The next day they were tried in court for ‘not following police orders’ and sentenced to three days of detention. Their parents were not allowed to be in the court during the trial and the NGO representatives had difficulty accessing the detention facility. Personal belongings taken during the raid were not returned to their owners. The case was reported to the Azerbaijani Ombudsman’s office but no response was received or action taken.

Transgender women are forced to use self-harm as a means to avoid detention and sometimes agree to cooperate with the police by providing phone numbers and personal data of their clients. Police uses this information to blackmail the clients and in turn clients beat the sex workers angry that their ‘secret’ was discovered. NGOs report at least one case of murder of a transgender sex worker in retaliation.

Most lesbian, gay, bisexual and  (LGBT) people live with their families because of family pressure and the social norm that a child should live with their family until marriage. Very few LGBT people tell their families about their sexual orientation or gender identity fearing being disowned or forcibly married. Many migrate to the capital city to escape family pressure and control. In those cases in which their sexual orientation or gender identity was disclosed by the police or in the course of an accidental situation, there were cases of violence, expulsion from home, or forced marriage.

Until now there is no place for LGBT people to gather except for the office of an NGO that focuses its work on LGBT issues. Society largely believes that LGBT people are sick and immoral. It would be unsafe to run an LGBT-friendly venue because the general public could become violent against the clients of the venue.

LGBT organizing is very limited. The only LGBT NGO in the country reports that they have to use HIV as a cover-up for their work with LGBT communities and are not able to register officially as an LGBT organization which limits the scope of their work significantly. The staff of the NGO cannot appear in public speaking about LGBT rights due to fear of violence and retaliation. The NGO outreach workers working on HIV prevention who go to parks and clubs where LGBT people gather are constantly harassed by the police. Police also monitors websites which LGBT people use for meeting each other. There were cases reported of police officers meeting with LGBT people through a personals website and then blackmailing or detaining them.

Recommendations

  • Conduct proper investigations on police blackmailing, harassment and violence against  LGBT people, duly punishing those responsible and setting up administrative and legal frameworks to eradicate such practices
  • Develop legislation to address family violence and hate crimes against LGBT people
  • Develop a legal and medical system which would allow transgender people to change their bodies and legal papers in accordance with their gender identity.
  • Take all necessary steps to ensure that organizations working on LGBT issues can legally register and operate, in accordance with the non-criminalized status of same-sex relationships in the country.

Sources: Dennis Van Der Veur ‘Forced Out’, Report on Azerbaijan  ILGA-Europe/COC-Netherlands fact-finding mission on LGBT situation in Azerbaijan  ILGA-Europe, COC-Netherlands (2007), ‘Forced Out’ Report and communication with LGBT NGO in Azerbaijan

Turkmenistan

Homosexuality

33. Homosexuality is criminalized and considered a mental disorder in Turkmenistan. Men who have sex with men receive a prison sentence of 2 years for homosexual conduct. People are also sent to receive “cures” for homosexuality in psychiatric institutions. These punishments are also applicable to the situations of perceived homosexual behaviour.

34. The anti-homosexuality law does not specifically mention women who have sex with women In May 2007, Columbia Law School in United States of America secured asylum for a lesbian from Turkmenistan as she feared to face persecution because of her sexual orientation and political views.

35. Mainstream societal attitudes are openly homophobic, including medical educational resources and health providers’ performance. Lesbian, gay men, bisexual and transgender people are culturally invisible, very stigmatized, and rarely unite into the groups.

36. Recommendations:

  • Review the notion of homosexuality as a “mental disorder” that contradicts what the World Health Organization affirms since 1974. Forced psychiatric treatment attempted to “cure” homosexuality constitute a violation to the right to the highest attainable level of health and should be outlawed. Health professionals should receive updated training on how to deal with same-sex desires and practices.
  • De-criminalize consensual same-sex behaviour among adults, as according to the Human Rights Committee criminalizing it constitutes a violation of Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Turkmenistan.
  • After de-criminalization has occurred, conduct public awareness campaigns as well as focused training for public officers in the areas of health, education and law-enforcement, about non-discrimination against persons due to their consensual same-sex practices.

Sources: US Department of State. 2006. Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Turkmenistan. Available online at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78845.htm (accessed 28 June 2008)

Columbia Law. Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Secures Grant of Asylum for Lesbian from Turkmenistan, 1 May 2007. Available online at http://www.law.columbia.edu/media_inquiries/news_events/2007/may07/sexuality_law (accessed 28 June 2008)

Uzbekistan

Sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination

10. According to Article 120 of the Uzbek Criminal Code muzhelozhstvo (homosexual sexual relations between men) can be punished with up to three years of imprisonment. This article has remained in place from the Soviet era and was removed in the majority of other post-Soviet countries. Reports state that in the years 2000-2004 at least 70 men have been serving prison sentences convicted on the basis of Article 120. Existence of criminalization provides an opportunity for the police to blackmail gay and bisexual men, who are terrified of disclosure particularly before their families. A number of cases are known in which the police would use newspaper personal adds to reach out to gay and bisexual men and either arrest or blackmail them. Gay clubs and cruising areas in Tashkent are also frequented by police, in their pursuit of opportunities for blakcmailing.

11. The state used Article 120 to persecute a human rights activist, Ruslan Sharipov, who is now living in the United States after the intervention of international human rights organizations. Two colleagues of Sharipov have been detained and interrogated on Article 120 charges in 2004. In 2007 a prominent theater director whose plays contained homosexual characters was stabbed to death in Tashkent. Without any solid evidence to sustain the accusation, the police arrested Oleg Sarapulov, a journalist, who was known for addressing the rights of LGBT people in his reports and charged him with the murder. This case is illustrative of the misuse of the criminalization of same sex contacts as grounds to silence activists.

12. LGBT people in Uzbekistan live in fear and a number of them migrate abroad. LGBT people in rural areas are subject to violence and harassment from their families and peers. Most of them break off all social networks in order avoid disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Families disown their LGBT relatives and may turn to violence in order to cover what they consider ‘shame for the family’. None of these human rights violations are reported to the police because of the existence of Article 120 and overall lack of trust to law enforcement bodies. There are no other laws that could help address family or street violence against LGBT people.

13. LGBT organizing to pursue respect of their human rights is impossible due to existing political and social climate.

14. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people along with sex workers are targets of ridicule and reproach by the media, mostly controlled by the State. State media use judgmental and offensive language regarding these groups and use the public disapproval of them to discredit non-grata international organizations (for example, Human Rights Watch).

15. Recommendations:

  • Repeal article 120 of the Criminal Code.
  • Conduct proper investigations on police blackmailing of the LGBT people, duly punishing those responsible and setting up administrative and legal frameworks to eradicate such practices
  • Develop legislation to address family violence and hate crimes against LGBT people

Sources used: International Research Center on Social Minorities Report ‘Sexual Minorities in Uzbekistan’ (December 2005), Sexual Minorities in Uzbekistan (2005)

http://www.gay.com/content/tools/print.html?coll=news_articles&sernum=2007/09/07/2&navpath=channels/news (accessed 29 June 2008), Article about Sarapulov in Russian http://www.ferghana.ru/article.php?id=1722 (accessed 29 June 2008), Link to series of articles condemning Human Rights Watch and LGBT people : http://press-uz.info/index.php?title=home&nid=544&my=042008&st=0 (accessed 29 June 2008 )

Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | September 10, 2008

August 2008: vacations, strategic planning and community successes

In the beginning of August from 1st to 10th our Community Center was closed down for sanitization. This opportunity was taken up by Labrys staff members, who scheduled their vacations for that period of time. Now the rested and fresh staff of Labrys is again ready to meet the challenges of the day and respond to requests of the community.

On 16-17th of August the Kashka-Suu mountain resort in the outskirts of Bishkek welcomed staff members, the Board, and several volunteers of Labrys for a strategic project and budget planning session for year 2009. Labrys management presented an idea of establishing a new department within the organization, which would work on empowerment of LGBT and general communities. The department would be the fourth within Labrys, the other three being: advocacy department, administrative-financial department, and services department. The new department would be mainly occupied with providing professional training for LGBT on various themes, and for general public on LGBT and human rights. The new year 2009 would also bring Labrys an ad hoc lawyer, who would be ready to help Labrys out on whenever needed basis. This was thought to be the best way out based on Labrys experience so far in the year 2008.

In July OSI sponsored project on access to health care for LGBT people entered a stage of creating information materials for medical professionals on LGBT health. Basing on results of a survey of LGBT communities we have defined the main problems they encounter when deciding to turn to doctors. These identified problems became the foundation for the text of brochures aimed at medical specialists. There will be overall six different brochures for different specialists, which will contain previously unknown or unheard of direct information from LGBT communities. We expect these brochures to be an important step in attracting friendly medical specialists to working with LGBT. The brochures have already been sent to a printing house and should be ready in the nearest time.

Equal trainer of Labrys – Dan, has distinguished himself this summer with his achievements, becoming the star of the season. Team Labrys congratulates him sincerely with three events:

  1. The publishing of his transgender love story in a global “Trans People in Love” book.
  2. His birthday with wishes of all the best in the world.
  3. His selection as participant of a Literary Summer Camp through competition of young writers organized by Chingiz Aitmatov foundation. The two weeks at Issyk-Lake did not only bring him physical pleasure from the sun, the sea and the air, but also spiritual from being around similarly minded artists and writers.

We wish Dan more future achievements!

Also our outreach worker Nika does not stop perfecting her training skills. From 11th to 16th of August she participated in a training of trainers organized by youth Y-PEER network. There along with a dozen of other participants Nika learned the compositing blocks of a successful training. Now we can expect Nika to be even more professional in delivering trainings.

Labrys in Kyrgyz UN Expert Group on violence against women

Even though the turn for September news has not come yet, team Labrys cannot fail to gladden its friends and allies with the news that Labrys was included in the staff of a UN-level expert group on issues of violence against women. A conference of women’s NGOs, gender themed UN agencies and ministries of Kyrgyz Republic took place in Bishkek on 3-4 September. Participants of the conference discussed issues of domestic violence, bride kidnapping and forced marriage, as well as sexual violence against women.

For the first time in history of Kyrgyzstan lesbians, bisexual and transgender people were mentioned in a sociological study of violence against women on such a high level. The researcher, one of the leaders of feminist movement in Kyrgyzstan, stressed that even though her study did not include much information about LBT due to lack of direct access to them, the group was one of the most vulnerable to violence. This gave legal ground for representative of Labrys to push forward issues of LBT communities and raise uneasy for other participants of the conference questions about freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity. The attention of the conference group was also concentrated on the fact that nowhere in Kyrgyz legislation there is a mention of freedom of citizens of Kyrgyz Republic from discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This was identified as the main legal impediment on empowerment and social inclusion of L(G)BT communities, as well as the source of constant depression for the communities.

Inclusion of Labrys in the composition of the expert group on promoting anti-violence legislation was decided by all participants of the conference. Within the expert group Labrys now intends to promote specifically anti-discrimination legislation aimed at inclusion of freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity in the body of Kyrgyz law.

Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | August 14, 2008

Summer time in Labrys

JUNE 2008

 

As the incessant summer heat is slowly fading away in Kyrgyzstan, Labrys gears up towards a new strategic planning session for the next year. Ideas for projects, important decisions are expected to be discussed at the 16-17th August training in the cool mountains of Kashka-Suu, in the suburbs of Bishkek. Meanwhile, a time for summing up the two hottest months of summer for Labrys has come. August is not full of news because we had a two-week vacation.

 

Ombudsman’s Youth Human Rights Council

The month of June began with good news for Labrys. We were invited to send a representative to a newly formed Youth Human Rights Council under the Ombudsman of Kyrgyz Republic. The council is made of representatives of various civic and political youth organizations and individual activists. The main goal of the council is defending rights of young and students. This is a great opportunity for Labrys to mainstream LGBT issues within the Kyrgyz national human rights milieu. Starting from the first sessions of the council, the enterprise proved its LGBT-sensitizing power with other members of the council, who expressed great and active interest in LGBT issues. It also needs to be added that the invitation to join the Youth Human Rights Council became a direct result of the public action Labrys conducted in the name of International Day against Homophobia. As reported earlier, on 16 May several staff members and volunteers of Labrys went visiting nearly 20 national and international human rights organizations with information about the Day, homophobia, homosexuality in Kyrgyzstan and work of Labrys. Among the organizations visited was also the Office of Ombudsman of Kyrgyz Republic. So congratulations to Labrys staff on implementing one of its advocacy goals for 2008-2009!

 

Photography and Mamacash

Also in the beginning of June Labrys was visited by a photographer from Mamacash, Dutch partner organization of Labrys. She was on a trip through Central Asia and dropped by Labrys Community Center where she took a multitude of pictures about our LGBT community and the work of the Center. Mariah (the photographer’s name) left exceptionally positive impressions on the staff and visitors of our Community Center who are now waiting to see some of the pictures she has taken.

 

LGBT Thanks Giving Day

On 7 June Labrys staff initiated a new tradition of celebrating an LGBT Thanks Giving Day dedicated to those who have contributed their time, ideas, and energy in development of the LGBT movement of Kyrgyzstan and development of Labrys as an organization. Volunteers and allies of Labrys were invited for a community event consisting of three blocs. In the first part Labrys staff thanked those present and awarded them with diplomas of excellence. In the second part the guests were invited to partake of a huge creamy cake and soft drinks. The third bloc continued with games and conversations.

 

TransMeeting 2008

 

The next day on 8 June coordinators of the transgender track of Labrys work conducted a support group for Kyrgyz transgenders. The meeting turned out to be the most productive and ambitious since its inception in 2005 when the first support group meeting took place. Along with preparing their own food for the meeting, our transgender guys brainstormed an idea of conducting a first mini trans-pride event in Bishkek – “TransMeeting 2008”. Fully equipped with flipcharts and markers, participants of the meeting compiled a list of 29 open transgender people (those that have already came out to themselves) – a large number in and of itself. The main goal of “TransMeeting 2008” would be to feel unity and pride for being who they are, to go forth together and find solutions to important social issues. The initiative group is still currently working on details of the event, so stay tuned for a special update in the coming weeks.

 

HIV positive lesbian talks about her life and runs a session on coming out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasha Granovskaya, HIV activist and a lesbian woman, was invited by Labrys to come and speak about her experiences of living as an HIV positive lesbian in a homophobic and prejudiced Moscow. Tasha disclosed her HIV status publicly earlier this year in one of the largest Russian newspapers and was constantly ostracized by the public. Tasha shared her experiences as a mother and as a person who is publicly out, read poems and played guitar.

 

 

 

“Condom: Unknown Facts”

On 21 June our new outreach worker, the energetic and active Nika, conducted a mini-session on the subject of “Types of Protection: Condom”. One would think that everyone knows what a condom is and how to use it, but it turned out wrong. For example, few people knew that ‘contraception’ translated from Latin means “to not allow”. The mini-session was full of interesting information about condoms, the history of its invention, and various types. Participants of the mini-session were pleasantly surprised by all the new information about a seemingly old and banal issue. Go Nika!

 

Training on Media Sensitization

The last decade of June started for Labrys with training in Serbia on “Teaching Media Writing Correct Articles about Vulnerable Groups” on 22-25th June.  Peer trainer of the Community Center Daniar represented the LGBT community of Kyrgyzstan, as well as Labrys. The training proved to be very useful and enlightening with elements of training of trainers. Participants of the training learned methods of organizing a similar event for journalists in their own countries. According to training information, the homophobia often met in media does not always mean that journalists mean to be homophobic – it can be explained by the simple lack of objective knowledge about the vulnerable groups and the subject matter. Labrys looks forward to conducting such training for Kyrgyz journalists, who, more often than not, produce homophobic articles.

 

Cristopher Street Day in Berlin

The training mania continued with participation of two Labrys representatives in the IGLYO organized conference on LGBT activism under the title – “Empower Thy Peers”, held in Berlin on 23-29 June. The first five days of the conference were spent in brainstorming on methods of empowering activists, students and hidden groups. Activists from various countries of Europe and Kyrgyzstan shared their experience and derived new inspiration from communication with others. The conference exulted with a Berlin Pride – a magnificent event that brought together thousands of LGBTQ activists from all over Europe, among which were the two excited staff members of Labrys.

 

Gay and Bisexual Men’s Needs Assessment

On 27-28th of June coordinators and outreach workers of the Men’s Program of the Community Center conducted a support group and an informal meeting for gay and bisexual men. The main goals of the events were conducting a needs assessment of needs of GB segment, as well as sharing information on Labrys work, proposed activities and future aims. The guys were interested in upcoming LGBT events abroad in which they could participate, as well as in trainings that Labrys has in store for them. Participants of the meetings also discussed strategies of decreasing the level of mutual enmity and misunderstanding between gays and lesbians. The question raised active interest of our guys, who offered a multitude of strategies. In the end they all came down to one simple formula of spending more time together – either through trainings or entertainment events. It was decided to meet more often to reach better understanding between different segments of the LGBT.

 

Training on writing reports to CEDAW and 41st session of UN CEDAW

 

The last days of June and the beginning of July brought Labrys great international interest through participation of Labrys Executive Director Anna Kirey in the 41st Session of the UN CEDAW Committee (Convention on Elimination of all kinds of Discrimination Against Women). The event consisted of a pre-training for women’s NGOs organized by IWRAW-Pacific women’s rights organization, and participation in the session itself. This experience offered Labrys an important opportunity to be heard at UN level, as well as tools to do so more effectively. As result of the training and participation in the 41st Session, Labrys is now preparing a stand-alone Shadow Report on LBT women’s rights in Kyrgyzstan to be presented at the upcoming 42nd Session in Geneva in October 2008. Originally Labrys planned to include this information in the general NGO shadow report but Council of Women’s NGOs decided that the information about lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people would be too challenging for the state to be included in their report.

 

JULY 2008

 

Transgender Health

 

On 5 July Labrys conducted a joint training on transgender health for our FtM and MtF transgenders. Participants of the training learned specifics of their health, results and risks of hormonal therapy, and general healthy lifestyle information. The training was conducted in a very informal way with a lot of fun videotaped for future production of a video. Some of the general health issues were considered from a transgender point of view. For example, turned out that a lot of transbois smoke to deliberately roughen their voice, or drink to forget the specific problems they encounter in everyday life.

 

Support group meeting for gay and bisexual men

 

Another meeting of a support group for gay and bisexual men took place on 6 July under the lead of Labrys new outreach worker named Shukhrat. It was the 5th meeting, which was attended by a large number of guys new to Labrys. Considering the contingent it was decided to conduct a mini intro session, in which Shukhrat talked about the work of Labrys, its activities and services, achievements and future plans. Participants of the meeting were inspired by the existence of Labrys and its goals, and expressed sincere happiness with the efforts and resources that Labrys contributes in assisting and developing the LGBT movement of Kyrgyzstan.

 

Training on HIV for LGBT communities

 

On 13 July Community Center hosted a large number of visitors for training on HIV/AIDS for LGBT communities. Participants of the training learned new and updated information on the issue at hand, and watched thematic documentary short films shot with support of MTV. The training continued with viewing of the “Transit” film produced by 4 countries (Russia, Mexico, USA, Africa). After the viewing participants discussed the film and the main points of it, which touched upon HIV/AIDS, drugs usage. In the end everyone was invited to test against HIV/AIDS and the proposal was accepted with readiness.

 

The same day a support group for transgenders was conducted in the kitchen of the Community Center. This meeting boasted presence of a new transboy, who was introduced to the rest, the status quo of the transgender advocacy, and the general work o Labrys. Participants of the meeting continued with discussion of the upcoming “TransMeeting 2008”. The event resulted in production of possible logos for the trans-movement of Kyrgyzstan.

 

Informal meeting of Kazakh and Kyrgyz lesbians

 

On 15 July an unplanned informal meeting of lesbian and bisexual women was conducted under the lucky concatenation of circumstances. It brought together one Labrys ally woman, two guests from Almaty (Kazakhstan), several Labrys beneficiaries and two staff members of Labrys Community Center. The meeting would not have happened if not for, apparently, hidden outreach talents of our ally, who noticed two lesbians from Almaty, and had the courage to step up to them and strike a conversation. Her efforts were, however, close to being futile, for Almaty guests at first took her for a preacher of yet another sect, talking about ‘rainbows and flags’. Fortunately, the misunderstanding was managed and hopefully fruitful cooperation between Bishkek and Almaty was given a start. Soon all the abovementioned gathered in a nearby café and spent an evening full of fun and mutual information sharing. Our Kazakh friends promised to come back.

 

Boys Camp: first ever in Labrys history

 

The main community event of Labrys took place on 19-20 July in Kashka-Suu mountain resort, where our Boys Camp took place. Twenty gay and bisexual men were chosen from a large pool of applicants to discuss issues of healthy lifestyle, activism and future plans. On the sunset evening of 19th July a huge minivan filled with boys and a rainbow flag fluttering on the flagstaff moved in the direction of Kashka Suu. The two days spent at the Boys Camp proved to be a unique experience bringing together gay and bisexual men from all over Bishkek and several regions of the country.

 

Hate crime: three men raped 26-year-old transgender woman

 

However, not everything was fine and dandy in the month of July. In the mid of July our MtF transwoman Jibek (name changed for confidentiality purposes) was attacked and gang raped by three men, who also bottle-raped her and cigarettes burned her from head to toe, including genitals. Her bra was burnt and she was told that if the rapists see her in women’s attire again, they would kill her. Shocked she could not make herself to take any action until two days after the incident, when she came to Labrys for help. There with assistance from Labrys staff and board members, she was taken to a crisis center, forensic medical examination, and district militia office to file her case. Not everything went smoothly, as district militia investigator proved to be extremely and openly transphobic, who added new insults to the already present psychological trauma of Jibek, by calling her a ‘faggot’ and a ‘freak’. With help of ally legal clinic, Labrys filed a complaint against the investigator. Currently her case is still being investigated with no results to be foreseen. Apparently, Jibek’s case could not be considered a rape case because she is not a biological woman and Article 129 of Kyrgyz Criminal Code defines rape as “assault and forced sexual contact with a woman against her will”. Jibek’s case was videotaped by Labrys production crew, which intends to take this issue higher up and question the legitimacy of Article 129, as well as of conservative definitions of a ‘woman’.

 

July also brought a loss in the team of Labrys. Head of our Programs Department, Alex Mamytov, had to leave Labrys due to various reasons. After a short rest from activism, Alex might be starting his own initiative group focusing solely on transgender issues, and intends to implement several projects in this direction. We wish him every luck in his work and hope to be able to provide support to his group whenever needed!

 

In preparation to two global events that Labrys took part in (read further for details), Labrys advocacy crew designed and produced numerous leaflets, brochures and stickers with information about Labrys. Several of them are posted online for your consideration.

 

Europride in Stockholm

 

Labrys made two presentations about LGBT situation in Kyrgyzstan at EuroPride in Stockholm thanks to the funding from Swedish Helsinki Committee and Swedish Federation of Student LGBTQ Organizations. The presentations were well received and a lot of people expressed their solidarity and support of our struggle. The event itself was full of wonders and difficult to follow because of the diversity of offered activities. Labrys was delighted to meet with representatives of Russian LGBT groups ‘Coming Out’ from St. Petersburg and Russian LGBT Network.

Labrys booth and experiences at World AIDS conference

Impressions shared by Anna Kirey

 

‘The AIDS conference in Mexico was the largest conference I have ever took part in. It was also one of the most inspiring events because I could sense the activist passions in the air. It was also informal yet very important, I learned a lot, I felt a lot, I did a lot.  The number one inspiration was sex workers activism, their messages ‘Sex Work is Work’ were everywhere, they hosted a number of shows, booths and parties. I wish my LGBT crowd was the same, yet we achieved a lot at the conference, too. We were their among the crowds of 25000 people, not always out and visible but taking a stand on issues that mattered to us. Ban ki-moon is my number two inspiration from the conference. He said, I quote, “I call on all countries to live up to their commitments to enact or reinforce legislation outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups. I call on them to follow Mexico’s bold example and pass laws against homophobia”.

 

This was the first time that the UN official at the highest level called on states to fight homophobia. It is historical for LGBT struggles. Yet it is not as authentic as the sex workers messages and activism because grassroots organizing beats all other types of organizing. I do not think I have ever seen so many people which are not given voice in post-soviet societies being so present and visible. A lot of hijras and transgender women walking around, LGBT people on stage, HIV positive young people taking a stand against HIV on-stage, off-stage, in every single encounter at the conference. I am a walking statement right now with a dozen of conference T-shirts. I also almost exceeded the luggage limitations because of all the books and brochures I brought. The wealth of information and the inspiration from the conference will stay for long.’

Standing by Kyrgyzstan LGBT presentation place

Standing by Kyrgyzstan LGBT presentation place

Labrys in the UN

Labrys in the UN

Photograph from Moskovskiy Komsomolets Newspaper

Photograph from Moskovskiy Komsomolets Newspaper

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.