Life As An LGBT Person In Central Asia


In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, homosexuality is still a crime punishable by a prison sentence. It’s not against the law in Tajikistan, but LGBT people have no legal protections and are sometimes subjected to psychiatric treatment. Gay people in those countries often choose to move overseas if they can, live in secrecy at their own risk of exposure, or live double lives. Voicing any support for them is dangerous, too. In two other countries, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the climate for LGBT people is less repressive. There are strong grassroots advocacy organizations, and there are safe spaces where people can gather and socialize. Some openly speak out about their identities and rally for their rights, but social stigma, homophobia, and harassment are widespread in these conservative, predominantly Muslim societies. In a live discussion on June 9 hosted by RFE/RL, I spoke with Amir Mukambetov, former head of community empowerment at the LGBT rights organization Kyrgyz Indigo, and Sultana Kali, a trans activist from Kazakhstan, about their personal experiences of growing up feeling different, finding their path to activism, and the woes and achievements of their communities. We also heard Dastan Kasmamytov, a gay activist from Kyrgyzstan, talk about his campaign to increase the visibility of queer people in Central Asia by raising a rainbow flag on the world’s highest peaks.

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