Sergey Astafyev is Pushing for LGBTIQ Awareness in Kazakhstan

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Global LGBTIQ advocates convened this December for OutRight’s annual Advocacy Week in New York City. The ten day event had advocates amass for trainings and meetings with U.N. representatives to discuss global LGBTIQ issues. These invaluable collaboration between advocates culminated at OutSummit, the capstone meeting where attendees are invited to discuss unique social and political issues that LGBTIQ people face in a diverse range of nations.

Sergey Astafyev is the Chairman of the Board of Regional Youth Public Association, ОМОО "As Актив", an organization lobbying for the interests of LGBT people in Kazakhstan. In his position as Chairman of the Board Sergey’s mission is to increase civic engagement and tolerance of young LGBT people in Kazakhstan. He has been in this position since 2012. He has also engaged on a multi-city report documenting the struggles and human rights abuses facing LGBTIQ people in Kazakhstan, which was presented in Astana in 2016. Along with his husband, Sergey Troyeglazov, he has also served as an intern for OutRight Action International, where he focused his efforts on research, translation, and ensuring that the organization was abreast of the evolving crackdown faced by gay and transgender Chechens. Learn more about Sergey and his activism in his interview with OutRight below.

Note: the following questions and responses have been edited for the convenience of readers.

OutRight: What experiences first made you want to advocate for LGBTIQ rights? How did you first get involved with your earliest experiences and current organization?

Sergey: I began to defend rights of LGBT, for the first time, in 2012. I myself faced obvious discrimination and a total lack of accurate, and relevant, information about LGBT in Kazakhstan. It was then that I also established my own organization, which works in direction to lobby and protect LGBT-community interests.

OutRight: How have global politics impacted your work?

Sergey: The global policy undoubtedly has important value, especially when it concerns LGBT rights in those countries, which are only just starting to lean towards democracy.

OutRight: Why is it important to be a part of advocacy week and how will that impact the work that you will do at home?

Sergey: All our joint efforts, which we will make at this meeting, without a doubt, will encourage collaboration between work and activities of organizations. Each participant will bring an important contribution to future work, and advancement of protection for the rights of LGBT people everywhere.

OutRight: What are some local social or political obstacles you and your organization currently face?

Sergey: Lack of anti-discrimination laws; absence of independent media; censorship in media; low awareness on LGBT community and their activity in the state, the principles of work, feature and benefit for the country; lack of legislative base protecting and allowing civil unions between same-sex couples.

Note from OutRight:

While same-sex relations have been decriminalized in Kazakhstan since the late 90’s, the rigid restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly have made advocating for LGBTIQ rights a struggle. Activists like Astafyev are working hard to create recognition and increase vocality of the community, in a country that lacks awareness of LGBTIQ issues.