In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, homosexuality remains to be against the law punishable by a jail sentence. It’s not in opposition to the legislation in Tajikistan, however LGBT folks haven’t any authorized protections and are typically subjected to psychiatric therapy. Homosexual folks in these nations usually select to maneuver abroad if they will, dwell in secrecy at their very own threat of publicity, or dwell double lives. Voicing any help for them is harmful, too.
In two different nations, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the local weather for LGBT folks is much less repressive. There are sturdy grassroots advocacy organizations, and there are secure areas the place folks can collect and socialize. Some brazenly communicate out about their identities and rally for his or her rights, however social stigma, homophobia, and harassment are widespread in these conservative, predominantly Muslim societies.
In a dwell dialogue on June 9 hosted by RFE/RL, I spoke with Amir Mukambetov, former head of neighborhood empowerment on the LGBT rights group Kyrgyz Indigo, and Sultana Kali, a trans activist from Kazakhstan, about their private experiences of rising up feeling totally different, discovering their path to activism, and the woes and achievements of their communities.
We additionally heard Dastan Kasmamytov, a homosexual activist from Kyrgyzstan, discuss his marketing campaign to extend the visibility of queer folks in Central Asia by elevating a rainbow flag on the world’s highest peaks.
Amir Mukambetov (Kyrgyzstan): “I don’t actually see hatred towards LGBT folks as a result of we all know that there are phrases in Kyrgyz [language] for queer folks like, for instance, ‘kumsa.’ So it implies that queer folks at all times existed in our historical past. That’s why I by no means felt, particularly in my childhood, any hatred from adults. It was principally from my friends. Different youngsters bullied me. So it makes me suppose that the society generally is impartial. It’s extra of a taboo than hate. What I can say is that these in energy have been exploiting the LGBT subject, politicizing it, and utilizing it to distract the eye from actual issues: financial, political, social.”
Sultana Kali (Kazakhstan): “The issue is that you could solely change your ID after having gender affirmation surgical procedure, which incorporates sterilization. We try to speak and share the expertise of these nations the place surgical procedure will not be obligatory for altering your ID. Not all trans folks need to have surgical procedures. Not all trans folks need to have hormone substitute remedy. It’s one of many greatest points in Kazakhstan as a result of folks can’t afford a surgical procedure, they will’t afford spending 30 days in a psychiatric establishment, and as a consequence can’t get their paperwork. They will’t actually work. They face quite a lot of struggles inside any social space the place you want providers.”
Dastan Kasmamytov (Kyrgyzstan): “I used to be doing quite a lot of activist work, in a conventional sense. However I felt it was not sufficient for our motion. I felt like we centered quite a bit on the issues now we have. It mirrored our lives stuffed with violence, hate, and discrimination. However regardless of all of this, I wished to point out that we as communities can obtain one thing and do cool issues. That’s how I got here up with an thought of Pink Summits. We’re queer mountaineers and we are actually attempting to ascend the very best mountains in every nation with LGBT symbols. We’ve climbed a number of mountains already, together with Mount Elbrus, the very best mountain of Europe and Russia, within the Caucasus. You possibly can think about how tough the scenario is for LGBT there. So symbolically, for me it was essential to wave a rainbow flag in essentially the most homophobic a part of homophobic Russia.”