Labrys news in May 2008
May was one of the busiest months of Labrys in 2008. A lot of positive events had taken place, uniting old and new Labrys beneficiaries and staff in meetings. However, in May there was also place for negative things to happen.
Lesbian woman attacked mistaken for a gay men
In the very beginning of the month, on 1st of May, one of Labrys lesbian clients told a story of assault and battery against her. This clearly hate based incident took place in late April, when she was coming back home at night from a meeting with her friends. In the very center of the city, where she could not have suspected any possible violence, she was confronted by two young men, who asked her if she was a ‘faggot’ [original language retained]. She has shortly cut hair and generally masculine appearance, which served as basis for their actions. To her words of refusal they applied force and took her by her shoulders to lead away from the street-lights to a darker part of the street, where they forced her to drink vodka with them. Later as their minds grew more and more intoxicated they demanded that she prove she was not a gay man and threatened they would rape her. Her resistance angered the assailants, prompting them to smash the vodka bottles and beat her up with them. Fortunately, a night patrol car was driving by at that moment, scaring the assailants away. However, the police officer had already noticed them and went after, detaining and consequently jailing. The case has been investigated and decided in favor of our client now.
Advocacy planning training with ILGA-Europe
With this incident the negativity of May went away, ceding to more constructive happenings. For example, on 7-9 May members of Labrys Board and managing staff of Labrys participated in an advocacy planning training with a trainer from ILGA-Europe. During the intensive three days work participants of the training identified main agents of advocacy work for Labrys, including main targets, allies and opponents. They also developed main four problems and goals to work for.
These goals are:
- increasing the level of activity and activism of LGBT groups in Kyrgyzstan;
- establishing a formal system of recognition of transgender identities;
- convincing mainstream human rights organizations in Kyrgyzstan to be open to LGBT issues and be willing to cooperate with Labrys;
- working with media on their objective and informed coverage of LGBT issues.
17 May events: International Day Against Homophobia
On Friday 16th May Labrys conducted a public event in commemoration of the upcoming 17th May International Day against Homophobia, as the date itself fell on Saturday. Labrys team made a series of visits to offices of national and international non-governmental, governmental and intergovernmental organizations with an information package on the history of IDAHO, homosexuality and homophobia in Kyrgyzstan, and work of Labrys. Offices of nearly 20 organizations were visited with very positive feedback from the visited. Labrys plans to continue the practice of such visits in future framing them into a structured framework, as this public event proved to be very successful. For example, one of its outcomes is the offer from the office of Kyrgyz Ombudsman to include a representative from Labrys in a newly establishing youth human rights committee of Kyrgyzstan.
On 17th May itself Labrys organized a semi-public event, gathering partner organizations and beneficiaries from LGBT communities in celebration of International Day against Homophobia. Participants of the event were brought to flanks of hills and mountains near the city limits, where they were given helium-filled air balloons and tubes with gouache for free artistry. Very soon the hill flank chosen by Labrys was full of rainbow coloured balloons with proud and peaceful calls for equality and human rights of LGBT. After an improvised speech from management of Labrys the balloons were let off to the skies with exclamations rejecting homophobia. Even after the balloons disappeared in the heights, the Kyrgyz sky was still rainbow coloured, as a rainbow-coloured kite brought to Labrys by a partner organization soared symbolizing freedom, peace, and equality. The LGBT friendly KLOOP covered the event and we are grateful to Gaara for excellent photographs.
Training for trainers on health lifestyle for LGBT
On 22-25 May Labrys took out LGBT beneficiaries and staff members to training for trainers on healthy lifestyle for LGBT conducted on the shores of Issyk-Kul Lake. It has been the second visit of the trainer from Labrys’ partner organization in Ukraine, Alena Semenova, who was invited on demand of LGBT communities. The highlight of the training was that it brought together, for the first time, activists from different LGBT organizations of Kyrgyzstan (Avallon and activists from Talas region).
Participants of the training studied basics of healthy lifestyle, including healthy nutrition habits, handling stress situations, working with alcohol consumption and smoking, as well as risky sexual behaviour and practices. In the second part of the training participants learned and practiced basics of being a trainer. According to feedback from participants this practical part of the training was especially useful to them as they acquired knowledge on training theories, holding attention of the audience, and effectively dealing with it. Labrys staff is currently working with several participants of the training on organizing their own trainings for LGBT communities.
Hate Crimes Monitoring Training with OSCE/ODIHR
May ended with two Labrys staff members participating in an introductory training for civil society on Monitoring and Documenting Hate Crimes organized by OSCE/ODIHR in Warsaw on 31 May – 2 June. Several cases from Labrys’ archive have been included in the 2007 ODIHR publication on hate crimes. The willingness of OSCE/ODIHR to include hate crimes and hate incidences against LGBT in the agenda of the organization is a very positive development, as it shows that LGBT issues are finally entering mainstream human rights discourse.
Apart from discussing key terms and basic issues of hate crimes and hate incidences together with nearly thirty other participants from all over the OSCE region (56 states), Labrys has established new contacts with LGBT activists and organizations. Among them are Serbian “Q” LGBTQ organization, Polish “UFA” (according to UFA members their name may be disabbreviated in 50 different ways) – a feminist LGBT organization, several Polish feminist and LGBT activists, as well as an LGBT activist from Northern Cyprus.
Along with new contacts Labrys has refreshed contacts with the COC-Netherlands funded PRECIS project partners from Georgia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
New ideas for future cooperation have sprung up from this unexpectedly LGBT-friendly training. Among them are participation in upcoming film festivals and equality prides. Labrys may also (provided funding is secured) participate in a Turkish roundtable on homosexuality in Islamic societies, which would be very useful for Labrys’ work in Kyrgyzstan.