Allegations of arrests, torture and murder of LGBT persons in Chechnya reached the world through the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta in spring 2017. Victims and survivors of the crisis have since fled the country to find safe havens elsewhere. Most stories that have made international headlines concerns gay men, but how did this crisis affect lesbian, bisexual and trans women?
The report «Violence Against Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Women in the North Caucasus Region of the Russian Federation» is trying to answer this question. The report is based on 21 in-depth interviews with LBT women from Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan initiated by «Queer Women of North Caucasus».
– The report is so important because it is the only report so far tackling this topic in itself. The large contribution made by queer women from the North Caucasus themselves is also unique , says Mina Skouen, senior adviser on LGBTI in The Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Violence and forced marriage
In the report the women present their experiences of coming out, recognition of their identity, their hopes and aspirations – as well as violence, violations and of fleeing. Many has experienced sexual violence and forced marriages. The majority has been «outed» – that their sexual orientation and gender identity has been disclosed unwillingly, and thereafter experienced violence and psychological terror. Several has been victims of “exorcism of djinns”, where some of the methods used can be described as nothing but torture and humiliating treatment.
– The 21 women interviewed in this report has lived or is still living with constant fear, they have little or no control over their own destiny, and the scope of violence comitted against them is enormous, says Skouen and continues:
– Several tell about how they have been asked to kill themselves because of the shame they have brought upon their families, and and atempts or threats of honor killings. We believe that these situations is part of a willed strategy by the authorities, as families are pressured by the government to kill their family members upon suspicion of them being LGBT.
The 21 women interviewed in this report has lived or is still living with constant fear, they have little or no control over their own destiny, and the scope of violence comitted against them is enormous
The report describes also experiences happening before 2017, and in several regions.
– Where one often talk about persecution of LGBT to be a new phenomenon in 2017, the findings in this report indicate that at least when we talk about women, abuse has been happening long before that. It also suggests that the scope covers not only Chechnya but other republics as well, and that when looking at what is happening internally within families, the numbers of perpetrators is large, says Skouen.
The report was presented by Valentina Likhoshva, from the Moscow Community Center, at IDAHOT + Forum 2019 in Oslo 14 May, in cooperation between The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Queer World. There was also a discussion about how states and civil society in Europe today can meet the complex needs of women fleeing both repressive regimes and their own families in the best possible way.
One of the questions raised was: “What can we do now?”
– We have to keep talking about this issue, and raising political and public awarness about what is happening, so that victims get help and that the perpetrators is held accountable, says Skouen and continues:
– The Russian government has to uphold it’s international human rights obligations, and to also make this clear for the local governments in North Caucasus. They have to ensure that women in North Caucasus, independently of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is not subjected to such abuses described in the report.