LGBT activist prosecuted over period protest

An LGBT+ rights activist has been fined for taking in part in a photoshoot aimed at reducing the stigma around menstruation in Kazakhstan.

Zhanar Sekerbayeva was fined 12,000 Kazakhstani Tenge (£25) for her role in the protest on August 9 in the streets of Almaty, the country’s largest city and former capital, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Sekerbayeva is part of women’s rights group Feminita, which organised the photo session along with other members.

In the photoshoot, Sekerbayeva held up a drawing of a woman menstruation over four yurts. (Feminita/Dana Kruglova)

Police arrested the LGBT+ activist on August 15, charging her with “minor hooliganism” over the incident.

During the peaceful protest around six women, including Sekerbayeva, stuck red-dyed sanitary towels to themselves and held posters raising awareness of the taboo surrounding periods in Kazakhstan.

Sekerbayeva held a poster of a woman menstruation over four yurts, which are traditional nomadic houses used in central Asia.

“We did not shout slogans, did not molest passers-by, did not carry out any aggressive actions. We held posters and peacefully answered questions to those who approached,” wrote Sekerbayeva in a blog post for Feminita.

She said that “many turned around and immediately turned away” in response to Feminita’s photoshoot, adding that a group of “aggressive men approached us who shouted to us in Kazakh to remove gaskets and posters.”

The photo session took place on August 9 in Almaty. (Feminita/Dana Kruglova)

Sekerbayeva said the Feminita members “decided to leave” following the confrontation, during which one of the men grabbed one of their posters.

The LGBTI activist added: “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.”

Women’s rights group Feminita was raising awareness of the taboo surrounding menstruation in the country. (Feminita/Dana Kruglova)

However, Sekerbayeva said that “some girls supported the photo shoot and even took posters in their hands.”
Amnesty International has criticised Kazakhstani authorities over the case, saying that Sekerbayeva was asked “inappropriate questions,” including whether she was married or was pregnant,”in court about her private life.

Oksana Pokalchuk, director of Amnesty International Ukraine, who sat in court for the case, said: “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.”