Project Update #10: Seminar with Public Union Kyrgyz Indigo
March 5, 2018
Part of the: World Bank & Sexual Violence Research Initiative Project: ‘Combatting Sexual Violence in Kyrgyzstan through Innovative Education and Information Technology (Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia)’
Dr Elena Kim, Dr Elena Molchanova, Aigerim Bakubatova, and Dr Frank G. Karioris
Today our course ‘Gender, Ethics, and the Politics of Violence’ had the great honor to have Amir Mukambetov from the Public Union Kyrgyz Indigo. Amir is the Community Empowerment Officer at the organization. Kyrgyz Indigo is a local Kyrgyz organization that addresses issues related to LGBT+ communities. The organization has institutional hubs in Bishkek, as well as multiple centers in the south of Kyrgyzstan. While they have centers throughout the country, most representatives come to Bishkek for their work.
Generously agreeing to come talk with the class, Amir discussed the work that Kyrgyz Indigo does and the current state of affairs for LGBT+ individuals in Kyrgyzstan, relating this to the LGBT+ persons throughout Central Asia. Throughout his talk, he raised a lot of important issues. Below outlines some of the main points of his talk as well as insights into the situation of LGBT+ individuals.
Kyrgyz Indigo, founded in 2010, is an organization run by volunteers who come directly from the LGBT+ community. The organization is made up of three branches or departments, they are: Community Empowerment; Advocacy and Partnership; and Administrative and Financial. In this way, they work to both work with the community itself and to advocate for the communities alongside these communities. If the community itself is empowered they will be better able to fight for their own rights. Before anything else, they start with a needs assessment, and then base all work on this.
Addressing one of the main elements of the course, Amir addressed the types of violence that LGBT+ representatives face. Put bluntly, there is a lot of violence that they face, from medical specialists, law enforcement agents, and, at a more diffuse level, mass media. To address this, Kyrgyz Indigo does trainings with these groups of individuals, including journalists. In the past few years, Kyrgyz Indigo has worked to expand their work, recognizing the importance of engaging with a broader group of stakeholders. Beyond giving workshops, Kyrgyz Indigo has advocated for an antidiscrimination law (ADL) for all vulnerable groups. They have a draft of the ADL and are working with advocates in Parliament in Kyrgyzstan.
Part of their work also includes running a shelter for LGBT+ individuals facing violence. They are able to stay in the shelter for up to one month, and are provided assistance with case management to address issues related to trauma. Amir related that regionally Kyrgyzstan is one of the leading countries in terms of LGBT+ movement, due at least in part to the active civil society and legislation work that has been pushed by NGOs in the country. It is important to remember that in some countries in Central Asia homosexuality is still criminalized – primarily for gay men.
After his wonderful introductory talk and comments, Amir took questions from the class. Students were interested in questions about the types of violence that LGBT+ persons faced, responses by parents and family, and the ways that medical professionals are and have addressed issues related to both gender identity as well as sexual identities. One of the fascinating issues raised was about trans* individuals in Kyrgyzstan; this is especially important as trans* individuals are not as easily able to pass. Kyrgyz Indigo has worked to provide information and support to trans* individuals; particularly to trans*women who suffer in Kyrgyzstan. Trans*women do not have a lot of opportunities for work in Kyrgyzstan except for sex work, which has impacts on individuals as well as their financial situation.
In the discussion, Amir raised the ways that changes are occurring to not just the state of LGBT+ individuals, but also the ways that the LGBT+ community relates to each other. The group discussed issues related to body image, camp, as well as gay marriage.
We would like to thank Amir and Kyrgyz Indigo for coming and sharing their experience, knowledge, and time with us. The discussion went for more than two hours, and is a strong demonstration of the impact of the conversation. For more information please do check out the website for Kyrgyz Indigo; they hold workshops and talks every Saturday. We look forward to continuing to work with and learn from this wonderful organization, and thank Amir and Kyrgyz Indigo for joining us in this event.