Breakthrough on Transgender Rights in…Kyrgyzstan

Global Fund for Women reports that an LGBT group in Kyrgyzstan have achieved a breakthrough on transgender rights which still eludes many Western nations.

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked and mountainous formerly Soviet state in Central Asia. In the last year, it has suffered major ethnic rioting and a change of government. It hosts the only US military base remaining in Central Asia.

Kyrgyzstan has passed new gender marker legislation which does not require a formal document to be issued by a medical institution showing a medical intervention. The new law solves the problem of there being no such process for medical professionals to follow and no relevant government document necessary.

The law is the result of years of work by Labrys, a group working for LGBT rights in Kyrgyzstan which has existed since 2004.

“Our job was to develop legislation that would allow transgender people to be able to change their name and gender marker without any kind of medical interventions if they do not wish to do so,” said Labrys’ founder, 31-year-old Anna Kirey.

“When we started it was almost impossible to think that we would be able to cooperate with people at high levels in government. It took a lot of work, but seeing that cooperation is possible makes me very inspired.”

“Slowly and painfully, the topic of LGBT is shedding its skin of being a ‘taboo’ issue,” said Syinat Sultanalieva, a Labrys staff member.

The law was signed, without objections, by 13 various Ministries of the Kyrgyz Republic. The decree is now on the Prime Minister’s desk awaiting the final signature.

“You can work so much better when you have support from people in the government,” said Anna.

After authoring alternative reports for UN human rights bodies on violence and discrimination facing Kyrgyzstan’s LGBT population, Labrys garnered international attention, which they used to establish an official working group with the Kyrgyz Republic’s Ministry of Health.

The first of its kind, the working group is made up of health officials, medical specialists, psychiatrists, Labrys representatives and people from the transgender community. Their goal is to develop an identity policy that upholds the rights and dignity of transgender people.

Labrys staff conducts trainings for doctors and psychiatrists on sexual orientation and gender identity. The group is now a trusted resource for Kyrgyz medical specialists.

“A lot of doctors had never met an LGBT person before,” said Anna. “It was exciting to see these new friendships happen.”

Homosexuality is legal, but individuals still risk losing their jobs and becoming disowned by their families. Despite the progress, the rate of violence is still staggering: Labrys’ research shows that one in four LBT interviewees experienced sexual violence and were forced into “curative” sexual situations.

In 2008, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on officials to “halt anti-gay raids,” highlighting an assault on the main office of Labrys. Police searched the premises and read private files without a warrant, interrupting a dinner party with international funders. During an earlier raid on Labrys, police threatened “they would rape everyone inside,” according to HRW.

As LGBT representatives have grown more organized and capable of defending themselves against strong-arm tactics, law enforcement officials have turned to threatening and extorting money from community members.

The group has become a leader amongst Russian speaking nations, most recently helping a fellow group in neighboring Tajikistan submit a report to the United Nations. They train activists in other Central Asian countries on how to document human rights violations.

Related stories:

Iran Called to Account on LGBT Repression at UN

EU Backs Asylum Rights for Trans People

One Trans Person Is Murdered Every Other Day

Image of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia symbol and people in shape of map of Kyrgyzstan by Labrys

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New G.
New G.3 years ago

Thank you.

Donegal Higgins
Past Member 4 years ago

Great news!

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.4 years ago


Jenny S.
J Stergiou4 years ago

A pleasant surprise. I don't know if that makes it easier to commit fraud/identity theft, though.

Lilithe Magdalene

Excellent! May all countries follow suit.

Jayna Sheats
Jayna Sheats4 years ago

This is just almost too good to be true, but what it really shows, I think, is the power of "grassroots" organizing and educating. The most powerful part of the story is how the medical community became partners after meeting transgender people face to face. And that led to the support of the politicians, who probably look to the "official" health community for cover for anything they approve.

Obviously there are plenty of bigoted individual left in Kyrgyhzstan, but this kind of beachhead can help start the process of changing the minds of the next generation, and the many people who are simply uninformed. Anna Kirey should get some kind of major award (maybe not the Nobel Peace Prize, but I would support her!).

John Duqesa
Past Member 4 years ago

And one in rhe eye for the Muslim haters who are only too prevalent on these threads.

Yvonne Fast
Yvonne F.4 years ago

Great! Thanks for posting! Lovely that things are moving forward, sometimes!

Jennifer S.
Jennifer S.4 years ago

Transgenders are brutalized and killed every day the world over. Statistics show that at least one transgender person is murdered in the US every month. The Transgender Day of Remembrance will occur on November 20.