Kazakhstan: Feminist LGBTI activist standing trial for photoshoot

16 August 2018, 15:51 UTC

The Kazakhstani authorities must immediately end proceedings against Zhanar Sekerbayeva, an activist working on LGBTI and women’s rights who is accused of “minor hooliganism” for taking part in an awareness-raising photoshoot, Amnesty International said today.

Zhanar Sekerbayeva is a member of the group ‘Feminita’, which held a photo session on 9 August to raise awareness about the taboo surrounding menstruation in Kazakhstani society.

Heather McGill, Researcher for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“The case against Zhanar Sekerbayeva is a perfect illustration of the Kazakhstani authorities’ intolerance to any views which they do not endorse.

“Rather than addressing the human rights concerns raised by these activists and seeking ways to break down the harmful stigma surrounding menstruation in Kazakhstan, the authorities have opted to shut down the discussion which Zhanar Sekerbayeva so bravely opened up.

Oksana Pokalchuk Director of Amnesty International Ukraine, who was present in the court room, observed that the judge asked inappropriate questions about Zhanar Sekerbayeva’s private life.

“This demonstrates exactly why Kazakhstan needs brave women like her to fight against discrimination. We call on the Kazakhstani authorities to end their illegitimate interference in Zhanar Sekerbayeva’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Taking photos is not a crime nor is campaigning for women’s health and rights”

The administrative proceedings against Zhanar Sekerbayeva relate to a photo session that ‘Feminita’ activists held on 9 August, in which they held posters including one of a woman menstruating over a group of yurts (traditional Central Asian nomadic houses).

On the evening of 15 August, police took Zhanar Sekerbayeva to Almalinsky police station in Almaty where she was formally charged with the administrative offence of “minor hooliganism”. She appeared in court this morning and her case is ongoing. If found guilty, she could face a fine or up to 10 days of “administrative detention”.

The police officers detained Zhanar Sekerbayeva just 30 minutes before she was due to give a presentation on her research on HIV and the health of lesbian, bisexual and trans women in Kazakhstan.

In court this morning, the judge asked Zhanar Sekerbayeva inappropriate questions about her private life such as “Are you married? Do you have any children? Are you pregnant?” and interrogated her about the poster.

Zhanar Sekerbayeva’s lawyer asked for the judge to be removed from the case and the hearing has been postponed until 20 August.