Intro: There is very little reliable information about gay life in Kazakhstan on the internet, but here is one first-hand report from a former Peace Corps volunteer, Everett Peachey, that offers a small window into this huge former Soviet country.
From: Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual US Peace Corps Alumni
By Everett Peachey
Regarding theGay Scene in Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan, I found the gay scene to be much more underground and on a much smaller scale than in Russia. Part of this had to do with the relatively small population of Kazakhstan. There were many similarities though. Everyone seemed to know one another, and the same mentality was there; for example, that trust of a partner was more effective than condom use.
One area of concern present in Kazakhstan to a greater degree than in Russia is the use of intravenous drugs. The city of Temirtau is especially plagued by HIV (there are over 1,000 reported cases) due primarily to intravenous drug use. Injection drugs are readily available and cheap in Kazakhstan because it is close to Central Asian drug trafficking routes.
The local gay communities exist on a much smaller scale here, and this was evident even in large urban centers like Karaganda (pop. 600,000), where I was a volunteer. There were a handful of people who were out in Karaganda, and every new gay person I met knew everyone else I knew. One way that gay people communicated was through the Internet. When I first came to Karaganda, I met people who later became friends on gay message boards because it was the only way I could meet gays in Karaganda. This is something that I would never have done in the United States. In Kazakhstan the Internet is one of the few places where gay people can meet. I perceived that placing online ads was generally a much safer practice there than in the United States. Kazakhstanis are looking for sympathetic ears too, and I can say that it was also a great way to practice my Russian!
I found that many gay men in Kazakhstan and Russia understand their sexuality only in terms of sex. There are many men who still believe in getting married and having children because that is what you are supposed to do. Many of these married men seek sexual release from gay friends (many of whom are also married). I believe this is part of the reason why a guy I knew from my work site brushed me off after I told him that I wouldn’t sleep with him. He had asked me out of the blue. He didn’t see a gay relationship as a viable option in Kazakhstan, and thus looked no further than sex. By the way, to further illustrate the size and interconnectedness of the gay community in the former Soviet Union, this man claimed to have seen me the previous year in a gay club in St. Petersburg, and knew two of my gay friends from Moscow. Small world!
Despite all of the progress in Russia and Kazakhstan during the last ten years, there is still much progress to be made. I hope that my insights and experiences living in the former Soviet Union will help new volunteers get a better grasp of the situation there. I found the former Soviet Union an amazing place with stark contrasts in geography, culture, and history. It is definitely worth considering as a place for Peace Corps service. Volunteers no longer serve in Russia, but are involved in projects in many of the Central Asian Republics like Kazakhstan.
The author posted his e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report from Labrys and Sexual Rights Initiative Regarding Homosexuality in Kazakhstan
From: Submission on Kazakhstan
This report is submitted by: LGBT Organization Labrys (Kyrgyzstan) and Sexual Rights Initiative (a coalition including Action Canada for Population and Development; Creating Resources for Empowerment and Action – CREA- India; Mulabi, Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights; and others).
1. This report deals with sexual rights in Kazakhstan and makes references specifically to
violence against women; the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
(LGBT); ethnic and gender differences in access to sexuality education/information and
medical institutions negligence in HIV transmission.
2. This report describes gender perspective on relations between men and women in Kazakhstan and government response to the gender realities. The largest part of the report covers the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Kazakhstan. While having decriminalized homosexuality in 1998 and passed favorable legislation in relation to gender marker change, Kazakhstan continues to associate homosexuality with criminal behavior in its criminal code and does not include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in its anti-discrimination legislation.
Issues of sexual orientation and gender identity are often discussed in the public realm but in a stereotypical way which creates a hostile atmosphere for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and provides obstacles for the work of organizations that promote their rights. Due to discriminatory attitudes of media, religious institutions and state officials, organizations working on sexual orientation and gender identity matters are unable to fully address the issues publicly. The report covers violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, identifying lack of state response to the violent incidents. Finally, ethnic and gender differences in access to sexuality information are discussed.
(Paragraphs 3-9 omitted here.)
Sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination
10. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Kazakhstan in 1998. However, the stigma associated
with criminalization and medicalization of same-sex relationships remains. It is expressed through police detaining people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression along with medical specialists refusing to provide services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
11. Lesbianism and ‘muzhelozhstvo’ (in English: sodomy) are listed in Kazakh Criminal Code in articles 121-123 as separate categories for forced sexual contacts which may have negative consequences for LGBT people given the stigmatizing attitudes about LGBT people in Kazakhstani society.
12. Article 141 on ‘Violating equality of the citizens’ and article 164 on promoting hate based on different social characteristics of Kazakh Criminal Code do not include sexual orientation and gender identity which contributes to lawlessness regarding severe cases of discrimination against LGBT people.
13. The situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Kazakhstan has been in a realm of public discussion due to commitment of nongovernmental organizations and funders to bringing light to the issue. Kazakhstan has prominent legislation on the rights of transgender people to change gender and name in official documents since 2003. However, the legislation is not publicized which limits transgender people’s access to recognition of their identities by the state.
14. Medical institutions in Kazakhstan are mostly funded by the state and those of them in large cities have qualified staff to address the concerns of families that bring their children to psychiatric hospital seeking to understand their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, there are a number of stereotypes expressed by medical professionals through means of media and during individual consultations that can and have been harmful to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (later in the text LGBT) people. Specifically, well-known sexologists repeatedly make remarks in the media about reasons why people can be LGBT that are scientifically unproven.
a) Adopt gender neutral rape provision in Criminal Code;
b) Reconceptualize homosexuality (‘lesbianism’ and ‘muzhelozhstvo’as worded in Kazakh
Criminal Code) as a sexual orientation;
c) Abolish using the stigmatizing term ‘muzhelozhstvo’ (sodomy) as a legal term;
d) Add sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for discrimination to articles 141 and
164 of Kazakh Criminal Code;
e) Raise awareness among civil servants at state-funded institutions about sexual orientation and gender identity;
f) Include most recent research about sexual orientation and gender identity in medical
g) Implement programs to adequately train health professionals in public hospitals in the latest developments in the area of sexual orientation and gender identity to ensure that they will
provide good quality and non-discriminatory services to their clients and families
h) In accordance with UDHR Article 21, para. 2, ICCPR Article 25 (c), ensure LGBT people’s
access to quality health services;
i) To adequately publicize the national laws allowing transgender people’s to change their name
and sex in public identity papers so more individuals will be able to benefit from them
Limitations and disapproval of LGBT associations by state and non-state institutions
Due to a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender NGO initiatives’ activity in the
country, Kazakh public institutions have been making public statements of disapproval of
existence of same-sex relations and families. In 2008 during a public discussion of the reforms to Kazakh Family Code, public servants of Almaty department on the Protection of Children and
Almaty Public Security Office stated that children can be traumatized by living a family with
parents of the same sex while Kazakhstan is not ready for providing acceptance or recognition to same-sex couples.
The hostility of public institutions is fuelled by religious institutions which have been actively promoting intolerance especially following a media hoax about a possible pride parade in capital city of Almaty in summer 2008. Organizing the parade was not confirmed by any LGBT organization, however, religious leaders of a number of denominations issued public statements denouncing the event. These institutions referred to LGBT people as ‘decomposing pseudo- subculure’ that is a threat Kazakh society’s spiritual traditions and morality. They urged the state to ‘oppose the tendencies which decompose society and harm the dignity, security and wellbeing of people’. A number of NGOs that work on protecting the rights of LGBT people received threats from groups and individuals.
Soros Foundation–Kazakhstan had to make a public statement about not being involved in financing pride events but in general providing support to LGBT community organizations following public outrage about the alleged pride event.
15. Since the hoax pride incident LGBT organizations in Kazakhstan has been constantly under
threat due to high visibility and had to cease their public activities until tensions decreased.
Activists are also concerned with 2009 internet legislation that may put them at risk for putting
information about sexual orientation and gender identity issues online.
16. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people name public hostility, family violence, homo
and transphobic attitudes promoted by the media and by public officials as the main threats to
their wellbeing. According to LGBT NGOs, police often neglects cases of violence that are
reported by LGBT people. According to LGBT NGOs, police often neglects cases of violence that
are reported by LGBT people and continuously detains LGBT people to extort bribes.
a) In accordance with Principle 25 of Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international
human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, ‘Take all appropriate
measures to eliminate stereotypes and prejudices regarding sexual orientation and gender
identity that prevent or restrict participation in public life’;
b) In accordance with Yogyakarta Principles and Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, take
all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure a favorable environment
for activities directed towards the promotion, protection and realization of human rights,
including rights relevant to sexual orientation and gender identity;
c) Take all appropriate measures to combat actions or campaigns targeting human rights
defenders working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as those
targeting human rights defenders of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities;
d) Ensure that human rights defenders, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and regardless of the human rights issues they advocate, enjoy non-discriminatory access to, participation in, and communication with, national and international human rights organizations and bodies;
e) Ensure the protection of human rights defenders, working on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, against any violence, threat, retaliation, de facto or de jure discrimination,
pressure, or any other arbitrary action perpetrated by the State, or by non-State actors, in
response to their human rights activities.
18. According to a study conducted by Open Society Institute’s Sexual Health and Rights Project and Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan in 2008:
30% out of 991 interviewed LGBT people experienced different types of violence ranging from armed attack to sexual violence. Most commonly the perpetrators of violence were individuals but in 15% of cases law enforcement employees were responsible for committing violent acts. Out of all the perpetrators, 30% were people that the survivor was familiar with. The most common violent situation described in the study were committed by the family of the LGBT people or someone in their close social circle such as school, workplace or neighborhood. Over 75% of survivors did not report the violent incidents to the police due to their perceived hostility and fear of disclosure. In addition, in cases of family violence survivors did not want to report their family members to law enforcement agencies. Out of those who reported the incidents, about 40% experienced hostile attitudes from the police.
Official statement of Soros Foundation–Kazakhstan available online http://www.soros.kz/226.html (accessed July 2009)
The study is to be published in autumn of 2009, its findings were obtained through email communication with Soros Foundation–Kazakhstan in summer 2009
According to principle 5 of the Yogyakarta Principles, ‘everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, has the right to security of the person and to protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual or group’.
On response to violence against LGBT people in Kazakhstan, the state should:
a) Take all necessary policing and other measures to prevent and provide protection from all
forms of violence and harassment related to sexual orientation and gender identity;
b) Take all necessary legislative measures to impose appropriate criminal penalties for violence, threats of violence, incitement to violence and related harassment, based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of any person or group of persons, in all spheres of life, including the family;
c) Ensure that perpetration of such violence is vigorously investigated, and that, where
appropriate evidence is found, those responsible are prosecuted, tried and duly punished, and
that victims are provided with appropriate remedies and redress, including compensation;
d) Undertake campaigns of awareness-raising, directed to the general public as well as to actual and potential perpetrators of violence, in order to combat the prejudices that underlie violence related to sexual orientation and gender identity.