16-day campaign against gender-based violence

The campaign has been going on for about a dozen of years and reached Kyrgyzstan around 2000. Yet usually the events go unnoticed as so-called ‘soft news’.  You can find more information about this campaign at What is the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign? 

The interesting figure is that – Over 2,000 organizations in approximately 154 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign since 1991! 

Women’s organizations in Kyrgyzstan take part in campaign very actively. Crisis shelter ‘Sezim’ makes films about the common violence situations while other groups make public actions and train police about family violence.

Feminism and women’s movement in Kyrgyzstan

During my years of wondering around women’s organizations in Kyrgyzstan I could not find exactly the depth of inquiry that I was looking for. Some organization provided services to survivors, some provided training and basic expertise of the legislation, some also post-factum research. It was a pleasure to meet Anara Moldosheva, who is an indepedent gender expert. Anara  is one of the leaders of women’s movement in Kyrgyzstan who is familiar with feminist theories and theoretical concepts. When she speaks, I tend to listen to every word because she analyzes the existing social structures so deeply that it takes my breath away.  I am considering interviewing her about her perception of social development in Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile, I found some of her theories on European Feminist Forum. Anara defines ideological goals of women’s movement as: 

  • Struggle with invisibility of women
  • Fighting with gender-based distortions
  • Challenging the traditional social limit/norm systems through identifying and practicing identities which are falling outside of these systems
  • Challenging the existing power structures

 This may sound too theoretical, what it actually means is that the existing social system works within rigid norms which make women’s needs invisible and put men in a privileged position. Most mainstream organization in Kyrgyzstan work inside this system mostly providing a little bit of liberation through providing, not empowering. These organizations emphasize social support, state and male paternalism.  

 The groups which work on identities which fall outside the norm, Anara sees them as alternative, she classifies as alternative unions. These could be organized Muslim women (with their claims to freedom of self-expression), lesbian and bisexual women and transgender people, women with disabilities.   These groups have clearly defined clients and goals. The mainstream groups distance themselves from the alternative groups because they find alternative agenda falling outside of their agenda. Anara stresses that the first and foremost goal of women’s movement is to get women with all their diversities feel included.

Vigil on the occasion of Transgender Remembrance Day in Bishkek

Candles at Ala Too Square on Transgender Remembrance Day 

Every year around 40 transgender people are reported to be murdered worldwide.  Dozens and maybe hundreds more go unreported.  Since 1998 transgender movements all over the world commemorate 20 November as a Transgender Remembrance Day.Policeman who wanted to know what was happeningPoliceman who wanted to know what was happening  

Bishkek activists, mostly lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people gathered at Ala-Too square to honor those transgender people who were killed in hate crimes.  In Kyrgyzstan transgender people often experience violence from their families, police and street gangs.  There were no murder cases reported, but the activist community is aware of dozens of cases of severe violence against transgender people. The Kyrgyz cases include death threats, persecution and severe beatings from families. One transgender woman had to flee Kyrgyzstan fearing for her life.

Participants of the event lit candles for 26 murdered transgender people and released 26 baloons with the victims’ names on them.  Each event participant had two candles and balloons with case information.

 Transgender Remembrance Day

 The organizers of event feared that the police might detain them for an unsanctioned meeting, yet the policeperson who stopped by only asked what was happening.

Policeman who wanted to know what was happening

homophobic article in Kyrgyz newspaper to be addressed by human rights organizations

Journalists in Kyrgyzstan pick up on the topics related to homosexuality or transsexuality whenever they have a chance.  There were attempts to address this issue which did not have much reaction from the media.

Recent coverage of a press conference about first brochure in Kyrgyz language about realities for homosexual and bisexual people in Kyrgyzstan turned out quite diverse.  It ranged from a positive BBC article in Kyrgyz language to a very negative reaction from a journalist in ‘Beliy Parohod’ newspaper which is posted below.  Kyrgyz language newspaper ‘Alibi’ quotes Dzhypar Dzheksheev, Head Representative of national commission on UNESCO affairs in Kyrgyzstan saying:

“In my understanding the Kyrgyz people must respect its traditions and not imitate the Western culture. Leaning on democracy and blaming it for everything, the Muslim people should not shut their eyes on such issues. I do not agree with this [state of affairs]. I consider this disgrace. And we must not agree with them [LGBT community] just because they say so – we must never forget our roots. “ 

The homophobic reactions did not go unnoticed, human rights organizations. LGBT activists picked up the issue and are planning to send out a number of open letters to the newspapers, UNESCO and Kyrgyz media representative urging them to address homophobia in the mass media and of their employees.

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Who would invest in women?

Activist Edil Baisalov shared his surprise about people wondering whether Moscow authorities are investing into Social Democratic party to put ethnic Russians in top 5  list.

I am thinking of making up a gossip about some forces investing in women. Who could that be though? I can only think of the UN or OSCE and indirectly. I would if I knew the female candidates better.

‘Women of Kyrgyzstan’ dropping out while a woman leads president’s party list

without any explanations. I think that there is still an issue with the 500,000 soms ($15000) that every party has to give to the Central Election Commission to ensure its participation. If the party gets less than 5% of the votes, they lose this money. For businessmen and current politicians (mostly male) this money is not an issue but for women it would be difficult to collect so much money and it would be likely that a women’s party would lose the elections.

President Bakiev recently gave six cars as a gift to female heads of local government units. The women were very grateful because they were not able to afford their own cars, like their male counterparts. 

A number of parties have presented their party lists, women usually are at third or fourth position in the lists.  A new party ‘Ak Jol’ closely connected to current President has chosen a woman Cholpon Baekova, head of the Constitional Court, to be on top of their party list.  

At the same time, as 24.kg reports, there is a new party of the ‘quota’ people presenting their five-name list at the elections.  The Democratic Party of women and young people ‘New Force’ has defined its five-name list of three women and two young? men.