Kazakhstan high court rules in favor of lesbian couple on privacy issue
The Supreme Court of the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan gave that country’s LGBTQ community its first legal victory by ruling in favor of a lesbian couple on a privacy issue.
The high court had overturned their Court of Appeal’s decision of “a substantial and gross violation of the right to self-portrayal under Article 145 of the Civil Code and infringement of the constitutional rights” of the couple.
The ruling is an important milestone for privacy rights for the LGBTQ community in Kazakhstan and show how strong safeguards for digital privacy can protect internet users from discrimination.
The case of a lesbian couple in Kazakhstan
The case stemmed from an incident in January 2018, wherein the two women were filmed kissing at a cinema in the city of Almaty by a man.
The man, Eldar Mamedov, posted the video on Facebook, which was viewed over 60,000 times and was shared to other social networks.
This led to death threats, calls for violence, and other hate speech directed against the women.
The two women– who were not named in media for ethical reasons– were later forced to flee the country for eight months because of the hateful and discrimination questions.
On February of the same year, the two women filed a lawsuit against Mamedov, claiming that the man’s distribution of the video was illegal without their consent.
The women were supported by the Feminist Initiative “Feminita,” even as the Kazakh LGBTQ community threw in their support with events to raise money to cover legal costs.
A victory and a loss for the LGBTQ community
At first, the district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs of May 2018. Mamedov filed an appeal with the city court.
On August 2018, the city court found in favor of Mamedov, overturning the district court’s decision as it cited Article 20 of the Kazakhstani constitution.
The city court further said that “society is not ready for open sexual relations between people of the same sex, the Law On Marriage and Family allows a legal union only between a man and a woman, same-sex unions are not allowed by the current legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”
Calling the actions and behaviors of the plaintiffs as violating “the morale and moral foundations of society,” the court said Mamedov was “a defender of the morals of the population.”
“Actions in the eyes of the majority of society are considered immoral and obscene, and the fact that this happens in front of children is generally immoral and affects the mental consciousness of children,” the judicial board said.
Khazakhstan high court rules on LGBTQ case
Last July 30 of this year, the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan ruled in favor of the women and criticized the decision of the appeals court.
The high court cited Article 18 of their constitution, wherein everyone has the “right to privacy, personal and family secrets, protection of one’s honor and dignity.”
“This will be a lesson for people in Kazakhstan who proclaim the struggle for morality. The violation of human rights and a call for hatred did not go unpunished,” said co-founder of “Feminita”, Zhanar Sekerbayeva.
“Both young women and our team repeat this important message: sue if your rights are violated! We are glad that the “Feminita” team supported the young women and we walked with them to the end! Thanks to everyone who was in solidarity with us!” said Sekerbayeva.
Meanwhile, Björn Van Roozendaal, Programmes Director with ILGA-Europe, said: “A judicial precedent has been set and we sincerely commend persistence, patience and courage of the couple who stood up for their rights.”
“We also congratulate our partners “Feminita” team, one of the initiative groups in the forefront of defending LBQ women’s rights in Kazakhstan, who have been with the couple from the start to the end,” said Van Roozendaal.
Lesbian couple: Determined to defend LGBQT rights
One of the women said in a statement to “Feminita: “Few believed that we would defend our rights in court. Those who did not believe argued that our society was not yet ready for such changes.”
“I believe that the opinion of society should not affect the struggle for our rights. If not you yourself, then who else will stand up for you?” she said.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that that in 2015, the Kazakh Constitutional Chamber ruled a then-pending anti-LGBT legislation violated the country’s constitution.
“Kazakhstan’s government would do right to support the fundamental rights of all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” HRW said.
They added: “As the Supreme Court has demonstrated, a sober assessment free of moralizing establishes everyone as equal before the law.”