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.