Today we had a meeting with UNFPA consultants (read: sexual and reproductive health) about youth policy in Kyrgyzstan. Labrys works mostly with young LBT people, therefore, we match the youth policy criteria, though we are not directly involved in formulating it at an official level. It was bit tough relating our issues of concern to more general youth issues. Yet mid-way through the discussion we finally figured out that actually the issues that lesbian and bisexual women are dealing with are very similar to those of other young women. These are sexual assault, unemployment, sexist attitudes among men towards them, family pressure to get married, pressure from society to conform with the uniform model of being passed from natal family to husband’s family. The consultants had a lot of questions to ask and the meeting lasted for almost three hours. The participants of the meeting came from very different backgrounds. From a civil servant to an activist religious Muslim woman wearing a head scarf. At first we were bit quiet and tested the grounds. But once we started speaking we felt that things that we said somehow bothered some of the participants. They listened quietly until Alex (transgender component coordinator) asked whether the new textbook on healthy lifestyles included information about homosexuality. There we got a response which gave a title to this entry. It started off from ‘I have to say this, I can’t stand it anymore’ and continued with ‘you speak about human rights but what about the rights of four million Muslims in this country for whom homosexuality is illegal and a sin. It’s a sin for me to sit next to you but I do that out of tolerance.’ Then another participant asked, ‘What’s there to learn about homosexuality for young boys and girls?’. At this point the consultants noted that Kyrgyzstan as they are looking at it is a very diverse country and it would be interesting to know how different identities are coexisting within this very complex society and that they are looking at Kyrgyz society from human rights point of view with respect to differences.
Overall, it was a good way to present our ideas and issues of concern, yet we realized that we need more preparation to fit within the local mild acceptance of violence, discrimination and certain practices as a norm. It felt as if we challenged the activists too much by our mere presence.