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Kazakhstan: feminist activist in court for menstruation protest

Kazakhstani human rights defender Zhanar Sekerbayeva has been charged with the offence of “minor hooliganism” after taking part in a photo stunt about the taboo of menstruation in her country.

Sekerbayeva - an LGBTI and women’s rights campaigner - was participating in a demonstration organised by the group ‘Feminita’ held on 9 August, in which they held awareness-raising posters, including one of a woman menstruating over traditional Kazakhstani houses.

Yesterday evening, Kazakhstani police formally charged Sekerbayeva with the administrative offence of “minor hooliganism”. She appeared in court this morning and her case is ongoing. If found guilty, she could face a fine or up to 10 days of “administrative detention”.

Heather McGill, Amnesty International's Researcher for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“The case against Zhanar Sekerbayeva is a perfect illustration of the Kazakhstani authorities’ intolerance to any views which they do not endorse.

“Rather than addressing the human rights concerns raised by these activists and seeking ways to break down the harmful stigma surrounding menstruation in Kazakhstan, the authorities have opted to shut down the discussion which Zhanar Sekerbayeva so bravely opened up.”

Court proceedings

Oksana Pokalchuk, Director of Amnesty International Ukraine, who was present in the court room, observed that the judge asked inappropriate questions about Zhanar Sekerbayeva’s private life.

Pokalchuk said:

“This demonstrates exactly why Kazakhstan needs brave women like Zhanar to fight against discrimination. We call on the Kazakhstani authorities to end their illegitimate interference in Zhanar’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Taking photos is not a crime nor is campaigning for women’s health and rights.”

In court this morning, the judge asked Sekerbayeva inappropriate questions about her private life such as “Are you married?" "Do you have any children?" "Are you pregnant?” and interrogated her about the poster. Zhanar Sekerbayeva’s lawyer asked for the judge to be removed from the case and the hearing has been postponed until 20 August.

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