It is with anger, sadness, and great disappointment that we must share with you the decision to cancel the upcoming EL*C Conference, initially scheduled on 7-11 October 2024 in Kazakhstan. Together with our partners and local hosts of the conference – Feminita, the EL*C has concluded that an international event of the scale and visibility of our biennial conference would be counterproductive, be it during or in the aftermath of the event.

Indeed, while the colonial influence of russia still touches the region, making Kazakhstani officials suggest colonial anti-LGBT amendments to laws, the international institutions, diplomatic missions, and donors withdrew their support to the event instead of voicing an unequivocal and reinvigorated commitment to the human rights of lesbians and the protection of lesbian human rights defenders.

A pivotal indicator of the international community’s attitude was the last-minute cancellation by the United Nations in Almaty of the long-confirmed use of the UN premises as a venue for the conference. This climate of uncertainty is naturally prompting diverse and diverging responses within the local communities. As an international stakeholder and co-organizer, EL*C must consider all concerns when defining its actions and strategic objectives.

 

Against this backdrop, with a heavy heart but with the best interest of our community and members in mind, we have determined that the organization of the EL*C biennial conference in its intended scope, format, and purpose, could no longer be ensured.

 

We will however not allow for the manipulation and disinformation to prevail, we will never allow our rights and our movements to be labelled as “LGBTI propaganda” or “foreign agents”. We will set the narrative straight (or rather lesbian), and we will keep fighting for justice and freedom, for our right to exist in peace, to be visible and heard, and for solidarity across the borders!

 

EL*C, and the lesbian movement it represents, are not one to shy away from adversity, and we will always be where we are most needed alongside our lesbian sisters and siblings. With this in mind, and in response to the challenging situation, we are exploring various strategies to engage with the local community and act as a meaningful lever and amplifier for our members in Kazakhstan and the Central Asian region, ranging from participating in peaceful protest and public dialogue, advocating in international fora, as well as joining the local activities and local gatherings. In particular, Feminta will organise The Lesbian Quryltai on the dates originally intended for the EL*C conference. Communications on the latter will be received directly from Feminita.

 

At the same time, strong in the knowledge that the EL*C conference is a unique and needed space for mobilizing, connecting and building our movement in solidarity, with courage, love, rage and resilience against patriarchal systems of oppression, we are working on identifying a suitable location to host the next EL*C conference in 2025. 

 

We will communicate the dates and place of the next EL*C conference as soon as possible. Please note that we will keep your pre-registration and/or scholarship application for the next EL*C conference, and we will contact you soon to confirm your interest.

 

Gulzada Serzhan, co-chair of the board at EL*C, has been fined by Kazakh Police for allegedly organizing an unauthorized protest. Serzhan, along with two other activists, was detained the day after participating in an impromptu public action held in response to the murder trial of former Kazakh Minister of Economy, Kuandyk Bishimbayev. The protest aimed to call for harsher punishment for Bishimbayev and raise awareness about femicide in Kazakhstan. Despite the lack of evidence, the Police fined Serzhan for organizing the protest. The official police report also highlighted her identity as an LGBT activist, even though the protest was focused on feminist issues. 

During the trial, Serzhan testified that she only participated in the action and did not organize it. Despite this, the authorities dismissed her testimony, using photographic and video evidence of her participation to indict her. There is no evidence that Serzhan organized the protest against Bishimbayev’s femicide. 

This authoritarian response is part of a longstanding pattern of repressing the right to freedom of assembly for lesbians and feminists in Kazakhstan. Serzhan is a member of the feminist organizational committee on peaceful meetings, Ogash, and co-founder of the lesbian and feminist collective, Feminita. In 2024 alone, Feminita activists have been denied permission for a feminist demonstration on March 8th in Almaty twenty times. Many of these refusals were justified by the authorities as preventing the spread of “LGBT propaganda,” despite the absence of any such legislation in Kazakhstan.   

In addition to Serzhan, two other activists were detained, with one also receiving a fine. Serzhan is currently appealing the court’s decision, and funds are needed for the legal proceedings. EL*C will cover the urgent funds necessary for Serzhan’s case and the fine of the other activist. 

Feminita, co-founded by Serzhan, has faced continuous rejection in their efforts to register legally in Kazakhstan. Over the past seven years, they have been denied authorization for their March 8th feminist demonstration by local authorities. Limited funding for unregistered collectives has made it challenging to seek justice against authoritarian actions that impede freedom of assembly for feminists and lesbians in Kazakhstan. 

Feminita has launched a fundraiser to cover expenses for strategic cases on freedom of assembly, aiming to secure human rights and safety for women and the LGBTI+ community in Kazakhstan.  

Feminist activists in Kazakhstan, such as Gulzada Serzhan, play a crucial role in advocating for LGBTQI+ rights and raising awareness about prevalent feminist issues such as gender-based violence and femicide. Despite facing significant legal and societal challenges, these activists continue to fight for justice and equality. Their efforts often result in harsh repercussions, including fines, and repression by authorities. Yet, their unwavering commitment underscores the importance of international support and solidarity. By standing with these activists, we not only amplify their voices but also contribute to the broader fight for human rights and dignity in regions where such freedoms are under constant threat. 

Please consider donating to support the lesbian feminists in Kazakhstan through Feminita’s PayPal: paypal.me/gulzadaserzhan 

Kazakh feminists leaving Police department the day before the trial.  

 

Context on situation in Kazakhstan: 

In November 2023, Saltanat Nukenova died of a brain injury just hours after a brutal beating by Kuandyk Bishimbayev in a restaurant in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital. According to DW, the restaurant staff was forbidden to call emergency services and was instructed to delete the CCTV footage under the pretext of a technical failure. Bishimbayev’s ensuing murder trial was broadcast live online and on TV. On May 13, 2024, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison, a punishment that feminist activists in Kazakhstan deem insufficient. 

Femicide rates in Kazakhstan are alarmingly high, with the UN estimating that 400 women die from domestic violence each year. In 2017, Kazakhstan decriminalized acts of violence causing “minor” physical harm. However, in April 2024, the President signed a new law toughening penalties for spousal abuse. This law has been dubbed “Saltanat’s Law.” 

In a recent turn of events, Georgia’s government adopted the draconian “Law on the Transparency of Foreign Influences” this week, despite vocal protests from the people. This authoritarian decision has fueled the existing wave of demonstrations throughout the country, met with harsh repression by the authorities, including the use of police violence against demonstrators. 

Lesbians and queer persons are at the forefront of this struggle as they recognize the imminent threat posed by this law to the safety, security and rights of vulnerable communities in Georgia. The LGBTQ+ community in Georgia has already experienced the repercussions of this oppressive law during the governmental discussions on the proposed legislation. Eka Tsereteli, director of an EL*C member organization in Georgia, has become a target of a hate campaign, with posters portraying her as an “enemy of the state” appearing on the streets of Tblisi in the recent weeks. Similarly, Mariam has faced a media hate campaign, with TV channels labeling their advocacy and their lesbian existence as “LGBT propaganda” in a move influenced by the Russian anti-LGBT propaganda law.  

The ruling Georgian Dream party is leveraging lesbo/homo/bi/transphobic strategies as part of its electoral mobilization efforts leading up to the October elections, evident in the organization of public debates and the promotion of an anti-LGBT propaganda law, exacerbating aggression and distress within the queer community.  

 

If we loose, it will affect the whole South Caucasus and Central Asia as up until now Georgia served as a safe gathering hub and space to operate for the neighboring countries. And with these legislative changes we won’t be able to continue operating.  

– Mari Kurtanidze, EL*C Board Member and Georgian lesbian activist 

 

EL*C strongly denounces the use of violence against peaceful protesters and condemns any attempts to silence lesbian and queer voices. These actions not only violate fundamental human rights but also undermine the principles of democracy and freedom of assembly. The massive demonstrations show the Georgian people’s disapproval of the adopted legislation. EL*C calls on Georgia’s government to respect the will of the people in favor of a European democracy, against Russian authoritarianism. 

In response to these injustices, solidarity efforts are underway: Lesbian Resistance, an EL*C member organization from Georgia, has launched a fundraising campaign to support the lesbian and queer activists in their fight for justice. Find out how you can donate on Lesbian Resistance’s Instagram post and learn more about the context in EL*C’s first statement on the situation in Georgia 

As we stand in solidarity with our lesbian and queer community in Georgia, we call for an immediate end to repression and a steadfast commitment to upholding LGBTQ+ rights. Our collective struggle against authoritarianism drives us forward in our quest for a society that embraces lesbian, trans and queer rights, safety and freedom. 

 

Photo by Project 64

It was a lesbicide – Justice for Pamela, Mercedes, Andrea, and Sofia 

On the 5th of May 2024, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, three lesbians were murdered and one was severely injured in a lesbophobic attack by their neighbor. The man threw a homemade flammable liquid into the room the four of them were sharing, resulting in an explosion and fire. He then proceeded to attack the lesbians further to prevent them from leaving the burning room. Pamela Cobbas (52), Mercedes Roxana Figuroa (52) and Andrea Amarante (42) all died the week following the attack. The fourth victim, Sofia Castro Riglos (49) currently remains hospitalized and is, at this time, thankfully, out of danger. 

Prior to the attack, the perpetrator had threatened the four lesbians multiple times. However, the local Police is currently refusing to take into account the previous threats in the investigation of this murder. 

“They were set on fire for being lesbians. They were set on fire for being poor lesbians. They were set on fire for being poor lesbians creating a community 

– Barracas Lesbian Assembly, Argentina

Pamela, Mercedes and Andreea were murdered in a lesbicide. Sofia has been left without her chosen family due to lesbophobia. Nonetheless, during a press conference, presidential spokesperson Manuel Adorni declined to label the attack as a hate crime. Meanwhile, Argentinian President Javier Milei took to Instagram to dismiss criticism both of the refusal to recognize the attack as a hate crime and of his role in spreading anti-LGBTIQ+ rhetoric. The politics of hate and dehumanization which allow lesbophobia to take root and mature into lesbicide are commonplace in the far-right’s speech and actions targeting lesbians and the wider LGBTIQ+ community. 

Argentina’s situation has become increasingly radicalized under the Milei’s rule. Currently, there is no state system available for individuals to seek protection in cases of discrimination and hate crimes. Institutions that operated for years before the new administration have been closed, resulting in thousands of job losses. According to the LesLac – the South American and Carribean Network of Lesbians and Bisexual Women, sexual orientation and gender identity have become a blatant basis for discrimination. Additionally, international mechanisms have proven largely ineffective in addressing these issues in Argentina. 

Milei’s government’s declarations dismissing lesbicide in Argentina echo Meloni’s government action against lesbian mothers in Italy as well as Orban’s government actions of censoring lesbian literature in Hungary.

– Silvia Casalino, EL*C Executive Director and Italian lesbian activist

According to EL*C’s Observatory on Lesbophobia 2019-2022, in 55% of the lesbophobic cases reported to the police in Europe, prosecution is rendered impossible by the legal system in place. The far-right has made lesbians the practice ground of their hate politics against the LGBTIQ+ community, women, migrants and refugees, the poor population. 

EL*C strongly condemns the refusal to categorize this lesbophobic attack as a hate crime. The lack of recognition of the intersectional nature of this hate crime based on gender, sexual orientation and class is deeply troubling. These acts of refusal and dismissal perpetuate a dangerous environment for the lesbian and wider LGBTIQ+ community. The far-right’s actions and rhetoric undermine the fair pursuit of justice for Pamela, Mercedes, Andrea and Sofia. 

Furthermore, EL*C is concerned with the radio silence on this horrific lesbophobic attack in the non-Spanish speaking media. The recently released EL*C Observatory on Lesbophobia 2023 points out that the media frequently neglects to cover lesbian-related matters, leading to a diminished presence of lesbians in press coverage, which can have detrimental consequences. As we’ve seen in the cases of Italy, Hungary and now Argentina, unaddressed lesbophobic rhetoric leads to injustice, discrimination and murder. 

Support Argentinian lesbian activists – share information about this lesbophobic attack and name it for what it is: a lesbicide. Invite Argentinian lesbian activists to speak about this case and be able to demand justice against lesbophobia and the far-right’s actions damaging the lesbian community.  

The European Election’s Campaigns are about to start, and election periods being particularly challenging times for minorities, this edition’s focus has been set on violence against more visible lesbians (such as politicians, journalists, athletes, and human rights defenders) as well as lesbians’ representation in media.

This edition analyses cases of violence against lesbians collected in the past year ranging from violence based on gender expression, including cases of state-sponsored lesbophobia, such as the court cases against the recognition of lesbian mums in Italy.

While the visibility of lesbians is politically essential, it also constitutes an undeniable risk.

Because lesbophobia is a distinct form of discrimination and bias that encapsulates the misogyny and stigma directed towards non-heterosexual women, this report highlights some of the many forms it can take. It shows how thin the line can be from invisibility to harmful tropes in media and how easily lesbian identities can be used to further exclusionary agendas.

Today, during the 11th European IDAHOT+ Forum held by the Council of Europe and the Ministry of Education of the Netherlands in The Hague, EL*C Executive Co-Director Dragana Todorovic declared: “We lesbians know that silence will not protect us. Last month, we signed together with many other CSOs a Lesbian manifesto were we called for a true Union of Equality. Public authorities, researchers and journalists can do much more to fight lesbophobia and ensure diversity and freedom in our society.”

Read the full report:

-> Observatory on Lesbophobia

See also:

Observatory on Lesbophobia 2019-2022

 

Today, the Council of the EU officially adopted the EU Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence.
 
We applaud the fact that the Directive recognizes several forms of violence, require Member States to do more in preventing rape and support women survivors of violence, as well as accessing to this essential medical care for women survivors of sexual violence.
 
We nevertheless deeply regret that some Member States managed to derail the unprecedented opportunity to criminalise rape with a consent-based definition at the EU level and the fact that EU lawmakers yet again silenced women impacted by EU migration policies.
 
EL*C has worked with several human rights and feminist organisations on this directive and will continue collaborating with them. Find here below our join statement with Women Against Violence Europe as well as the statement signed with 12 other human rights NGO.
 
 
 
 

As advocates for the rights and freedoms of lesbian and feminist communities across Europe and Central Asia, the EL*C stands in firm solidarity with the people of Georgia, voicing our collective opposition against the recent legislative actions that threaten democracy and human rights in the country. 

On May 1, 2024, the Georgian Parliament further advanced the draconian “On the Transparency of Foreign Influences” bill, which was supported by a significant majority despite widespread opposition. This legislation mandates that civil society organizations receiving over 20% of their funding from international sources register as entities “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.” This comes as an alarming development in a series of legislative actions perceived to be undermining the democratic fabric and human rights in Georgia. 

The introduction of this bill and the simultaneous proposals for anti-LGBT legal changes mark a significant regression in the protection and recognition of minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community. Such measures not only contravene the aspirations and constitutional commitment of Georgia towards European Union integration but also mirror oppressive policies seen in other regimes, notably Russia. 

The peaceful protests that erupted in response to these legislative proceedings have been met with severe and unjust state violence. On the nights of April 30 and May 1, 2024, authorities used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets against demonstrators, resulting in numerous injuries and detentions. This excessive force underscores a grave violation of human rights and democratic norms. 

As a lesbian and feminist organization committed to advocating for the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ communities in Europe and Central Asia, EL*C stands unequivocally with the protesters and civil society of Georgia. We condemn in the strongest terms the actions of the Georgian government in suppressing peaceful dissent and endangering its citizens. 

Call to Action: 

Share information about the ongoing situation in Georgia across all platforms to ensure global visibility and support for the protesters. 

Engage critically with sources of information and support independent Georgian media striving to provide accurate coverage under challenging circumstances. 

Express solidarity and join demonstrations of support for Georgian activists, recognizing that this is not an isolated incident but part of a broader struggle for fundamental human rights and freedoms. 

 

We urge the international community, especially countries and organizations committed to human rights, democracy, and equality, to stand with us in support of the Georgian people against this regression. We call on all parties to prioritize the safety and rights of all individuals, especially those who are most vulnerable. 

Together, we can help ensure that Georgia remains on a path towards progress and integration with the European Union, reflecting the true will of its people, rather than succumbing to autocratic influences that seek to divide  societies and suppress freedoms. 

 

For freedom and solidarity, 

EL*C  

  • L-HEALTH is a European consortium which seeks to promote excellent clinical practice for all the people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Friday, April 26 is Lesbian Visibility Day

 

EL*C joins the Institut d’Investigació en Atenció Primària Jordi Gol (IDIAPJGol), which is coordinating the L-HEALTH project, a European-wide initiative whose main objective is to identify the health inequalities suffered by lesbians in the primary care services. The project is promoted by a consortium with the same name made up of five entities, including research centres, non-profit organizations and lesbian associations. This week, they have met at the headquarters of the IDIAPJGol to start the project.

The starting point of L-HEALTH is to build a database of lesbians treated in primary care services, given that this information is not collected in the documentary systems used to record the population’s clinical information. Subsequently, the health status of the lesbians included in the database will be compared with a random sample of the general population. The second objective of the project is to find out the lack of knowledge and the attitudes of the primary care professionals when it comes to caring for lesbian women.

The study uses a qualitative methodology that aims to identify the health needs of lesbian women and the discrimination they have suffered in the health field by health professionals. The research also aims to explore the stereotypes, attitudes, and knowledge gaps of health professionals in the care of lesbian women.

 

Training program

The findings of the study will serve to design a training program for health professionals that improves their awareness and knowledge of lesbian health and promotes excellent clinical practice for all, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender or identity of gender.

L-HEALTH is a project funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) program of the European Union. With a budget of nearly 420,000 euros, it was launched in December 2023 and will last for two years. Its coordinators are IDIAPJGol researchers Anna Ponjoan and Constanza Jacques.

 

Structural masculinity

Dr. Ponjoan reports that “Lesbians have traditionally been invisible, both in clinical practice and in research, mainly because of structural masculinity and lesbophobia.” In this sense, L-HEALTH “intends to contribute to reducing stigma and discrimination, which are still present in primary care teams, where the heteronormativity of patients is assumed”.

In addition to the IDIAPJGol, the L-HEALTH consortium is participated by the Biomedical Research Institute of Girona (IDIBGI), the Public Health Agency of Barcelona (ASPB), the Spanish NGO SIDA Studi, dedicated to the promotion of sexual health, and the intersectional lesbian and feminist network EL*C.

 

Kick off

The project started with a first face-to-face meeting that has taken place at the IDIAPJGol headquarters on Monday, April 22. This meeting has coincided with Lesbian Visibility Week, which will culminate on April 26 with the celebration of Lesbian Visibility Day.

During this first meeting, the five partners presented the goals of the project and established its scope and planning.

Lesbians from across Europe will demonstrate in Rome this Saturday 27 April 2024, to support lesbian mothers and more broadly all Italian women and trans people, threatened by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her far-right majority.

This March, the Court of Padua ruled in favour of lesbian mothers, rejecting the Italian Prosecutor Office’s request to remove one of the two lesbian mothers, the non-biological one, from the birth certificates of 38 childrens.

A few days after, on March 12th, the Ministry of the Interior challenged the decision and presented an appeal. This court action, which comes after a year of political attacks, threats and (il)legal pressure, is yet another attempt by Meloni and her majority to make our lives and families the battleground of the next European elections.

This Friday, 26 April 2024, on the occasion of the International Day of Lesbian Visibility, the Italian and European lesbian movements will present the fight and resistance against this extreme right-wing government during the PRESS CONFERENCE scheduled at 11 a.m. at the headquarters of Arci Nazionale, via dei Monti di Pietralata 16, Rome.

The protest “MADRI FUORI LEGGE (Outlawed Mothers), Lesbians united for the full recognition of motherhood” will be held on Saturday 27 April 2024, at 5 p.m., in Piazza dell’Esquilino in Rome.

We lesbians know that silence will not protect us. These continuous political attacks show that this government will not stop, not even in front of childrens. Lesbians will not stop either and will take to the Esquiline Square in Rome on 27 April stating forcefully:

#anchenoisiamomadri

#lesbiansaremotherstoo

PRESS INVITATION

The press conference will be held on Friday, April 26 at 11 a.m. at the headquarters of Arci Nazionale, Via dei Monti di Pietralata 16 in Rome, to provide further details.

RSVP

For press inquiries and attendance confirmation, please contact:
silvia.casalino@lesbiangenius.org
+33 6 64 99 23 49

Speakers:
Natascia Maesi, president of Arcigay
Genny Sangiovanni, Rainbow Families, Italy
Chiara Piccoli, president of ALFI
Silvia Casalino, Executive director of EL*C
Lucia Caponera, Lesbian Difference, Rome

The protest is organized by ALFI, Arcigay Roma, Differenza Lesbica, Arcigay Transfeminist Women’s Network, Arcigay Modena “Matthew Shepard,” Famiglie Arcobaleno, Lesbiche Bologna, Associazione Luki Massa, Associazione Liberas, and Lista Lesbica Italiana, the EuroCentralAsian Lesbian Community (EL*C) and joined by Arci Roma, Azione Gay e Lesbica, Gay Center, NELFA (Network of European LGBTIQ* Families Associations), RGR (Rete Genitori Rainbow), Cattive Ragazze.

 

Recently the Kazakhstan government discussed three amendments on  

  1. “Legislative Acts on Mass Media Issues” to ban media outlets if they publish “propaganda of non-traditional relationships” and  
  1. amendments in “Law on Peaceful Assemblies” to include “propaganda of non-traditional relationships” as a ground for rejection to sanction peaceful meetings by local city authorities and 
  1. in particular the proposal to extend Criminal Code Article 174, which deals with “inciting social, national, racial, class or religious hatred,” to include “promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships.” 

 

On April 17th, this proposal on Mass Media obtained the majority in the Kazakhstan Parliament Low Chamber and passed to the Senate. The text of the law with amendments submitted to the Senate was not published violating procedure.  

The LGBTIQ community, alongside allies and fellow citizens of Kazakhstan, are deeply concerned, alarmed, and want to challenge this decision.  

This decision by the Kazakh parliament comes at a time when the country faces pressing issues, such as devastating floods in 10 regions that have resulted in significant loss of homes, lives, and livestock. Yet rather than addressing these vital needs, some deputies are focusing on measures that not only distract the public opinion from critical emergencies but also infringe on constitutional protections. 

 

The current legal situation in Kazakhstan for LGBTI persons is the following: 

According to Article 14 of the Kazakh Constitution, discrimination is prohibited, which implies the constitutional violations posed by these amendments. Moreover, Kazakhstan supported the 2020 Universal Periodic Review recommendation to guarantee an enabling environment for civil society activities, activist groups and human rights defenders of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. These changes to laws directly undermine this commitment. 

These legislative changes are being justified by referencing Article 1 of the Code on Marriage and Family, which defines marriage strictly as a union between a man and a woman. This definition is used to label the LGBTIQ community as a threat to family values. Similarly, proposed amendments to the law on public assemblies would allow local authorities to deny permits for events that involve “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” 

 

The amendment proposals reflect a troubling trend towards limiting the rights of the LGBTIQ community, including their right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, as protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kazakhstan ratified in 2006. – Ilaria Todde, Director of Advocacy for EL*C – EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community

 

Past legislative efforts have targeted and eroded the LGBTIQ community rights. In 2018, discussions around the “Law on the Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” included discriminatory clauses against LGBTIQ individuals, and similar provisions were included when the law was adopted in 2015. Additionally, in February 2024, the educational website Selftanu.kz for queer teenagers was blocked by the State, which contradicts the constitutional right to disseminate information freely. 

This year, new restrictions have been introduced that prevent LGBTIQ individuals from adopting children or becoming their mentors, enforced by a controversial “special psychological test.” 

 

We urge global support for the LGBTIQ community in Kazakhstan to counter these discriminatory practices. The community faces legal and societal challenges, but with international support, we can fight these injustices. Actions such as making public statements, writing letters to MPs or State stakeholders, or sharing supportive posts can make a difference. Together, we can stand against these oppressive measures and uphold the democratic values enshrined in Kazakhstan’s constitution. United we can prevent another country from falling into the anti propaganda realm. 

 

For further information or to show support, please contact us at kazfeminita@gmail.com.