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Holding a picture got this LGBTI woman convicted of ‘minor hooliganism’ in Kazakhstan

Written by gaytourism

The feminist group want to raise awareness about menstruation in Kazakhstan. | Photo: Feminista

A Kazakhstan court has convicted an LGBTI activist for ‘minor hooliganism’ after she held up a picture of a woman menstruating.

Police arrested Zhanar Sekerbayeva of feminist group, Feminita, as she posed in a public photo shoot on 9 August. The photoshoot aimed to dispel the national stigma around menstruation. During the shoot, she held up a picture of a woman menstruating over some yurts – traditional Central Asian nomadic houses. Sekerbayeva also had a sanitary pad painted red to look like menstrual blood pasted over her pants.

On Monday a judge in the major city of Almaty found Sekerbayeva guilty on Monday (20 August).

Judge Akmaral Isabaeva fined the activist 12,025 Kazakhstani Tenge (US$33), but Sekerbayeva plans to appeal the court’s verdict. The argued that the police process was flawed and she was not afforded a fair investigation.

a hand drawn picture of a giant naked woman standing over some yurts as blood pours out of her vagina

The picture which got Zhanar Sekerbayeva arrested. | Photo: Feminista

We are not ashamed

Feminita staged the photo shoot in the public square to destigmatize menstruation. Kazakhs still refer to menstruating as ‘dirty’, while denying important health discussion around it. The group wanted to spread the message that they and all women should not be ashamed about menstruating.

‘My participation in the photo session was important,’ Sekerbayeva saud.

‘I’m not surprised by the reaction of people on social networks, and again and again saddened by the universal levels of misogny.’

‘All this once again shows me and my sisters that we are on the right track, feminism in Kazakhstan is necessary and we will not remain silent.’

Feminita reported the lack of education around menstruation lead to health problems for some women. The group said some girls knew nothing about menstruating and even thought they were dying when they first got their periods.

Inappropriate questions

Police arrested Sekerbayeva just minutes before she was due to give an important speech about her research on HIV among sex workers and trans, bi and lesbian women.

During her original trial the activist took offence to the judge’s line of questioning.

‘Are you married? Do you have any children? Are you pregnant?’ were some of the questions the judge asked Sekerbayeva.

Her lawyer succesfully petitioned for the judge’s removal and was replace by Isabaeva.

The inappropriate line of questioning shows why Sekerbayeva’s activist work is so important, according to Oksana Pokalchuk, Director of Amnesty International Ukraine.

‘This demonstrates exactly why Kazakhstan needs brave women like her to fight against discrimination,’ Pokalchuk said.

‘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.’

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