Kyrgyzstan presents a difficult challenge for homosexual people. It is politically unstable with a recent history of violence among major ethnic groups; it is mostly rural with a population that is 80% Muslim and education levels are low. Corruption is common which results in widespread poverty. In such an environment any chance for tolerance toward “Gay Life in Kyrgyzstan” is slim despite the fact that same-sex activity was decriminalized in 1998, before the breakdown of the Soviet rulers in Kyrgyzstan.
On 6 April 2010, a demonstration in the capital of Talas protested against government corruption and increased living expenses. A revolution ensued that overthrew the former president and resulted in the adoption of a new constitution and the appointment of an interim government. The clashes left some 300,000 people internally displaced and Uzbek leaders wanted the UN peacekeeping force to intervene because they did not trust the Kyrgyz forces any longer.
Presidential elections were held in November 2011 and won by Almazbek Atambayev, leader of the Social Democratic Party and the then-Prime Minister. Atambayev was sworn in as the President on 1 December 2011. Kyrgyzstan is now an officially a democratic parliamentary republic. Independence from the Soviet Union happened on 31 August 1991.
Kyrgyzstan is among the twenty countries in the world with the highest perceived level of corruption.
While economic performance has improved considerably in the last few years, and particularly since 1998, difficulties remain in securing adequate fiscal revenues and providing an adequate social safety net. Remittances of around 800,000 Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia represent 40% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP. It is the second poorest country in the former Soviet Union, and is today the second poorest country in Central Asia.
The country is rural: only about one-third of population live in urban areas. Islam is the dominant religion of Kyrgyzstan: 80% of the population is Sunni Muslim while 17% follow Russian Orthodoxy and 3% other religions.
Strangely, sexual acts between persons of the same-sex are legal in Kyrgyzstan since 1998.
This country appears on the European Union’s list of prohibited countries for the certification of airlines. This means that no airline which is registered in Kyrgyzstan may operate services of any kind within the European Union, due to safety standards which fail to meet European regulations.
About the Kyrgyzstan LGBT Organization Labrys
Labrys is a non- governmental organization established in April 2004 and officially registered in February 2006. Labrys is committed to improving the situation of Lesbians, Bisexual women, Gay men and Transgender people in Kyrgyzstan through empowering LGBT themselves and working with general public to integrate LGBT.
Vision of Labrys: to strive for all of its members to have equal rights and opportunities, regardless of their sexual orientation/practices, race, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity/gender self-expression, religion and social status… To improve the quality of life for LGBT people and to achieve visible results in realizing their basic human rights and freedoms through empowerment and development of LGBT communities.
At one of the CEDAW international conferences the delegation of Kyrgyz Republic presented its Third Periodic Report focusing on the achievements the country has made in guaranteeing advancement of women there. Labrys members asked the government representative 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. A second question regarding LBT issues 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 problems of LBT issues, and that they realized the need for further research into the issue. This goes in 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.
Labrys Joins Equality Caravan tour of Kyrgyzstan: First of Its Kind Project in Central Asia
August 4-11, 2011.
Activists from several Kyrgyz non-profit organizations created a new mobile advocacy campaign «Equality Caravan» which toured the northern shore of legendary Lake Issyk-Kul. Equality Caravan is a collaborative project between seven NGOs that serve at-risk social groups, members of which are often marginalized and silenced within Kyrgyz society: people with disabilities, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, recovering drug users, sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS and others. Among the participants are organizations Labrys, Asteria, Youth with Disabilities Movement, Nazik Kyz, Center for People with Disabilities, Subbotnik Q, Kyrgyz Indigo, and. Thirteen Caravan riders spent an eventful week on the road.
In pursuit of greater acceptance and equal opportunities for all, Equality Caravan visited three largest resorts of the Issyk-Kul region – Karakol, Cholpon Ata and Balykchi. Each city presented a unique set of challenges and chances. Residents and visitors of Karakol and Cholpon Ata were invited to view an exhibition and attend “live library” sessions at a strategic central location. In Balykchi riders went to the public beach and directly interacted with those in attendance sparking conversations about vulnerable groups and the life saving work of participating organizations.
The campaign format aspired to provide its audience with unique opportunities to share positive personal experiences with each Caravan participant. The riders approached both locals and tourists, presented an exhibition of photographs and crafts and told their life stories. Such dialogues and monologues enabled the Caravan to lift the veil of taboo off questions of equality, tolerance and respect for human rights regardless of any external or internal factors that may challenge mainstream perceptions.
During the campaign, over 800 people learned more about the lives, needs and contributions of people with disabilities, sex workers, recovering drug users, people living with HIV/AIDS, and LGBT people. Many extensive interviews regarding human rights and their violations were recorded for the subsequent documentary film. Over 200 sets of informational brochures and promotional flyers were given out by the members of participating organizations. It all adds up to the invaluable experience of mobile advocacy campaigning which will inform and enhance future efforts to advance the cause of human rights in Kyrgyzstan.
The activist crew returned home exhausted, but inspired by the quality of their engagement with the Issyk-Kul residents and guests. A plan to expand geographical reach and timeline of the Caravan is in store for next year’s campaign. “Our main accomplishment is setting the example of how to successfully tackle difficult matters in public discourse without prejudice and provocation. Several invitations from local initiative groups and the fact that all participants want to continue collaborating in this creative format serves as a testament to its efficacy,” says campaign consultant Alexey Bulokhov. Equality Caravan is part of “Through awareness to inclusion in Central Asia” project run by Labrys and underwritten by Civil Rights Defenders (Sweden).
To learn more about the Caravan, visit our online diary (http://taboo.kg/blogs/user/1198) and Facebook page.
We are for equal rights! Make a step forward!
Respectfully, Veronika Yurieva
Media advocacy specialist, Labrys
Problems with Homophobic Police and Press
In April 2008, police forced their way into the premises of Labrys, which was in the midst of hosting a dinner for 30 domestic and international advocates. Members of the Kyrgyz Anti-AIDS Association and other local groups were joined by international partners from organizations including COC, the Dutch LGBT association that is the world’s oldest gay groups and Gender Doc-M, an LGBT group in Moldova. Police threatened to arrest anyone who did not produce identification papers.
Learning from previous experience members of Labrys called human rights lawyers in an attempt to pacify the situation. A deal was negotiated with a senior police commander in which no arrests were made. In return Labrys promised to provide documentation about its work to authorities.
Further outrage ensued when an article appeared in a leading newspaper in Uzbekistan which accused the gay rights group of being “sexual perverted.” The article, which appeared in Press-Uz, was entitled “Kyrgyz Militia Checked Pederasts and Prostitutes from Netherlands” The article describes Labrys as an organization defending interests of “pederasts” and “prostitutes”.
The article reminds its readers that Netherlands was among the first countries in the world, which legalized prostitution, “sodomy”, and use of drugs. Kyrgyz human rights defender Dmitriy Kabak has sent the editors a letter of protest in which he questioned their ethics and adherence to providing objective truth.
Protest Against Vulgar and Insulting Newspaper Story
February 24, 2012
Petition against vulgar homophobia:
“On February 9, 2012 a newspaper Delo # (Case number) has published an article “A gang of prostitutes.” This article is written in a vulgar and insulting tone. It stigmatizes and demeans the human dignity of homosexual people.
“In particular, we consider it unacceptable to use phrases such as “draw passers-by in “gay “faith”, quoting statements, drawn from the unmoderated Internet forums, putting of homosexuality on a par with the violence and crimes against sexual integrity.
“We believe that the publication of this kind in the media incites hatred in the society in relation to the specific groups – in this case towards gay people – and may also provoke violent actions against them. Homosexuality itself is not linked to violence and does not provoke violence. Violence is provoked by the contemptuous tone, pointing to the fact that some people can be considered obviously worse than others.
“We call attention to a significant risk of the consequences that result by the publications of this kind – fomenting xenophobia against gay people, discord in society and an increase in aggressive mood among the population.
“We consider it unacceptable publishing such articles that in crude form violate of one of the fundamental human rights – the right to be free from degrading treatment. We pay attention to the fact that the article touches not only gay people, but also readers, since it is assumed that they should like such kind of materials.
“We urge the newspaper “Delo No.” to refrain from this style of presentation and follow of the Constitution in which the protection of human rights is the highest value.
“We appeal to all to sign the petition against this article and call on the newspaper “Delo No.” to publicly apologize to its readers.” Go to petition.
Interview With Labrys Activist in Bishkek, Daniyar
January 18, 2012,
(translated from Russian; from Facebook)
Daniyar: “We are not to blame that God created us so.”
Representatives of sexual minorities in Kyrgyzstan appeal to international organizations to complain about violations of their rights.
By Eliza Kenenbaeva
The complaint states that they are under pressure from law enforcement officials and society. More in an interview with “Liberty,” said one of the representatives of sexual minorities in Bishkek, Daniyar:
– I consider myself bisexual. I live and work in Bishkek. For five years as a co-operative with other LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ) groups to protecting their rights. Before that I had worked in the organization ‘Labrys’. First, a volunteer, then employee. In 2010 we organized an initiative group of gay and bisexual men, where I was one of the leaders. Now we registered it under the name “Kyr Indigo” and we are also working with the LGBT community of the country.
He is now 29 years old. The fact that he did not like himself as a young man of 23, when he first felt a strong attraction to men.
– When talking with gays, 80 percent of them say they always knew they were gay. Self-awareness of that he liked guys came to him early in adolescence, but he still liked a girl, before he realized who he was. I realized all too late, at 23. It happened suddenly. At that moment I was sure of my sexuality. I liked girls. I had a serious relationship with one. Then I met a young man, and realized that we fell in love …
Closest friends know about Daniyar and his sexual orientation. According to him, parents and relatives, too, realize, but do not say anything.
– At home we are silent about it, and everything is clear. For example, recently, when I said that I wanted to adopt a child, so I want to financially prepare for this step. They did not ask “why.” I think, in principle, they all know for a long time, because in twenty-nine years, many men already have families. Most do not even think that their child might be gay or lesbian. People never even admit such a thought. They think that this is possible in the West, there, far away. But not here and not with their sons or daughters.
According to Daniyar, representatives of the LGBT community feel moral pressures from other people and their families, and from law enforcement agencies – power and material oppression. Non-governmental organization, which employs Daniyar, each year sends a report to international organizations. Up to 80% of complaints are related to the arbitrariness of investigators.
– If the police see a gay in front of them they begin to blackmail him: “We will tell your parents, classmates or colleagues at work if you do not give us money.” Most of the young guys do so, because the police told them that there is an law against sodomy, but they do not know that this law long removed. The police manipulate the inner feelings, so the gays are ready to give any money to get away. And if a gay goes to the police station, no matter what business, workers begin to degrade him, morally and psychologically. There have been cases of forced sexual contact. For me it is strange that the police themselves say: “How are you, being a man, having sex with a man,” and themselves too, enter into such relationships.
Because of the strong social and family pressure, and pressure law enforcement representatives of sexual minorities in Kyrgyzstan can not openly declare themselves. In Bishkek, there is a special night club. Most of them are free to meet there and in other similar places. In this respect, according to Daniyar, the most difficult times is for rural youth.
– They arrive in Bishkek but not all are successful. Those who have lived in the city a long time have time to hide the truth about themselves and they are deeply unhappy in his life. They make their wives unhappy and, because they must enter into a traditional marriage.
– What’s the difference who is in bed with you – man or woman – if it is an adult, able-bodied and is with you is not by force but by love? Daniyar continues: we are unlikely to depart from these ways. But there is another part of our movement, which is a more conscious approach to sexuality and emotional attachment. This is good. We are in the sociopolitical life of the country to help with human rights. The LGBT situation is becoming different, though very slowly. But even these steps are encouraging.
According to Daniyar, the Kyrgyz community has people with different sexual orientations. In Kyrgyzstan, there are no laws that protect the rights of LGBT people. “But it would be nice if a law was passed prohibiting the prosecution of such people on sexual grounds.”
-In the future, Daniyar intends to start a family. Everyone wants to have children. Frankly, I see myself in old age in another country because to me there would be easier to live and earn money for the maintenance of their loved ones. Only because of this. Maybe I will have another life, and my family will not like at all. Many people go to Russia or Kazakhstan, because it’s a little easier than we have here.
Every year a growing number of young people become aware of their sexual peculiarity. In 1990 they united to defend their rights in the LGBT community. Before that they were forced to hide their sexual orientation, because in the Soviet period, homosexuality was punishable by law.
Experts note that earlier in the Kirghiz language there was no such thing as “gay,” “lesbian” and “bisexual”, so there is no adequate words for their translation. In the West, nobody is surprised when to see people with different sexual orientations. In many countries around the world we are allowed same-sex marriages and adoptions, even people who live in such a relationship.