It has been more than two years since my last entry. I don’t follow current events as much as I would like to but at the same time I think a lot about gender perspective and what it means in Kyrgyzstan. Most recently I am looking at legal and medical regulation of (homo)sexuality and gender identity in Kyrgyzstan within the past 20 years. It is a massive amount of work with 1990s being recoverable mostly through fragments of memories and hopefully newspaper articles if I manage to find them. Some of the questions that I am looking at is who and why decided to decriminalize homosexuality in Kyrgyzstan in 1998, how the process of adopting ICD-10 went in Kyrgyzstan especially in relation to homosexuality which all of a sudden was not treatable anymore. In the 2000s I am interested in looking at how interest/civil society groups were formed around ‘queer’ identities.
Originally I thought that I would be writing a story of the small ‘LGBT’ movement in Kyrgyzstan but somehow right now I feel that this story that I am working on is more about development and international institutions.
I know, for example, that women’s organizations started to form in Kyrgyzstan closer to 1997-1998 with funding available from Counterpart Consortium, USIS and Soros Foundation – Kyrgyzstan. What kind of participation of ‘civil society’ was present before 1997, история умалчивает. I really want to know what happened between 1991 and 1997. What was the reform of psychiatry field like? How did the reform of the criminal code reflect the neoliberal blueprint that was part of ‘transition’ that attracted foreign funders and set Kyrgyzstan in an ‘island of democracy’ mode. Sometimes I think that Kyrgyzstan is a success story guinea pig. It’s small enough and flexible enough to test new models and implement them without much resistance but quickly and in a way that attracts more funds because now there is so much to build on.
I have not been writing much for the past months. The work never stops and the gendered world is always there. Today I want to touch on the issue of UN mechanisms of protection of the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There are two mechanisms that I am very familiar with because of producing quite a few reports using them recently. One is a shadow report mechanism for reporting on state implementation of the UN conventions (GenderStan focus is particularly on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).
The other is a relatively new procedure of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which is basically similar to convention reports but it includes more opportunities for NGOs to be involved and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reviews the reports which come to them and prepares a summary of all the concerns. The UPRs usually focus on specific human rights issues. The ones posted here are on sexual and reproductive rights in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. I am posting them because, first of all, Kyrgyz NGO worked on putting them together and, second, the issues are very similar to Kyrgyzstan largely because traditional attitudes in all three countries are similar.
There are two issues right now which I am concerned about…
One is Georgia and Russian involvement in the conflict. It’s scary what can happen next to other autonomies which Russia just has to support ‘due to its Soviet legacy’ (read Russian media to find support for these arguments). My mom’s friend said that its all about elections in the US, they need a war to win elections, Iran and Iraq are not popular anymore so now its Georgia. A name of a country and a name of US state. See picture below for details on why some Americans feel that their country is invaded. It’s like ‘Wag the dog’ movie with ‘who cares about Albania?’.
And another one is gender-based violence. A transsexual woman was raped three weeks ago in Bishkek by three men, they burnt her nipples and genitals with cigarettes and burnt her bra, she did not dare to seek help and did not believe that it was possible to address the rape in court. This was a hate crime which could’ve been prevented. We could not register the rape because her legal gender is not female and only females can be raped according to the Kyrgyz law. The image below is directly relevant to the hate crime…
It has been over a month since I wrote last time. I have been very busy with a vacation and working on moving my commitments to a more international level. Right now I am preparing two reports on two Central Asian countries on sexual and reproductive health which is an interesting endeavor.
And right now I am sitting in the UN building in New York and listening to the Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He is now welcoming the participants of the 41st Session of the Committee on the Conventional on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). During this session Yemen, Nigeria, Tanzania, Finland, the UK and Lithuania will present their reports. The structure of reporting allows NGOs to present their shadow reports in response to the official government reports. The Committee will consider both reports and make recommendation to the governments on what needs to be done to improve the situation of women in their country.
Kyrgyzstan is presenting in October 2008 and I am here to learn about the process and to prepare for presenting Labrys report on the situation of lesbian, bisexual women and transgender people. Kyrgyz government has submitted their report already and Kyrgyz women’s NGOs are working on preparing their shadow reports. Council of Women’s NGOs, Forum of Women’s NGOs, Labrys and possibly sex workers organization Tais Plus are drafting reports.
The past weeks have been hectic and I was in and out of the country which probably is noticeable on the blog. The most interesting information flow that I am coming across everyday is how LGBT Organization ‘Labrys’ is responding to the police visits that it has encountered in the past weeks. The first raid which happened two weeks ago received a lot of responses and reactions because it was an official event with guests from Dutch donor organizations and because Labrys acted on the situation using international human rights protection mechanisms. Labrys contacted Human Rights Watch and used UN Special Procedures to address the issue. Human Rights Watch issued an official press release condemning the police raid while the UN sent a note to Kyrgyz Ministry of International Affairs.
The press release has a photo of the district police officer who lead the raid and it was put on the wall in the community center to be shown to other police who might want to raid the center. The community center staff has a strategy to deal with new visits and list of contacts of people and organization who could help in case of police visit. There are two duty staff at nights and Labrys is in high alert due to possible revenge from the police which other human rights activists warned Labrys about. Meanwhile the reactions to the visit are coming from all over the world with LGBT organizations expressing solidarity and asking what they can do about the situation.
In my opinion the reactions and the impact that the information has made will improve Labrys advocacy because the Kyrgyz human rights activists who usually do not relate LGBT matters to their priority work can now understand that LGBT activists experience the same harrassment and pressure from the state that the other organizations do. Also Labrys realized that there is a lot of support from both within and outside of Kyrgyzstan and will be more active in its advocacy work.
Flowers, candy and cakes. Not much about women’s rights which originally signified the 8th of March. Flowers are sold at every corner and every woman is entitled to a gift and attention. I saw local police giving flowers to women drivers at the main Ala-Too Square. Interesting idea possibly copied from Russian police recent Valentine’s day quest with giving heart-shaped baloons instead of fines to traffic rules violators.
At the same time recently the parliament’s committee on ‘everything unimporant’ e.g. youth, sports and gender policy voted in a bill on ‘National Sport types’ while the bill on ‘State guarantees for equal rights and opportunities for men and women’ reports MSN newspaper . The number of women in Parliament seems not to influence the attitude towards gendered approach to legislation. This was the worry of researcher and gender specialist Gulnara Ibraeva and it is likely that the women from privileged and elitist groups might not find gendered realities of Kyrgyzstan as a key issue to support.