We believe that the end of AIDS is possible if there is more focus on key populations. Our project in Tajikistan addresses barriers faced by the LGBT community related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Driven by community champions, we work to realize involvement of key population organisations in decision-making, improving of laws and policies and development of national documents; increased human rights literacy among LGBT people; and equal access to health services for LGBT people (including MSM).
A country of institutionalised homophobia, social exclusion and poverty
Tajikistan is one of the poorest former Soviet Republics. Although sex between people of the same gender is legal, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons are often confronted with homo- and transphobia, social stigma and discrimination. This results in limited access to jobs and services, pushing people into poverty. LGBT people face persecution and violence from the police, and have no laws to protect them. They also face a hostile media, which reinforces existing prejudices. As a result many individuals prefer to be invisible, living on the margins to avoid persecution. Tajikistan is at the early stage of an HIV/AIDS epidemic, with an estimated 16,000 people living with HIV at thend of 2015. Key populations carry a big burden of the HIV epidemic. Data suggests that less then half of total MSM is being reached by HIV prevention programmes. Tajikistan suffers from corruption, low capacitiy of local agencies to analyse newly introduced reformed and programmes and there is insufficient government budget for health and preventive medicines. LGBT people also face poverty and high levels of unemployement.
LGBT people claim a right-based HIV and SRHR response
Bridging the Gaps works with a Theory of Change approach. A Theory of Change is a description of a list of events that is expected to lead to a particular desired outcome. It is a visualization how change is believed to happen. In 2016, representatives of the LGBT community developed a specified Theory of Change that consists of short-,medium, and long term outcomes. The Theory of Change describes how we plan to realize increased involvement of key population organisations in decision-making, improving of laws and policies and development of national documents; increased human rights literacy among LGBT people; and equal access to health services for LGBT people (including MSM).
Through innovation and by building on previous work, we will strengthen civil society organisations’ ability to:
1. We facilitate community development
- Conducting an investigatory assessment to advance the Stigma Index Research;
- Strengthening communication and collaboration between key population and PLHIV networks;
- Conducting a country context analysis (desk research), to collect information about the situation in Tajikistan regarding politics, legislation, human rights and health, community based organizations and (potential) allies, the state of the movement, and HIV/AIDS policies and budget, all related to LGBTI people;
- Conducting a needs assessment to serve as advocacy tool;
- Increasing self-confidence and knowledge about accessing health services and human rights, and contribute to community building and leadership development;
- Conducting outreach and peer-education to increase knowledge and understanding around practising safer sex;
- Documening lesson learned on setting up a service-resource centre for GBMSM;
- Starting a project on working with the community on Islam (being Muslim) & sexual and gender diversity;
- Providing support in fund raising.
2. We advocate for the continuously strengthening of services and upholding human rights
- Educating LGBT and MSM communities on their rights and how to make use of these rights;
- Providing legal assistance to the community and document violations of the human rights of LGBT persons;
- Working as special advisor of the OSCE mission on sexual diversity issues, advising community based groups throughout the country on dealing with human rights violations, advising the OSCE on LGBTI issues, and informing other stakeholders on the human rights situation of LGBT people;
- Strengthening partnerships with mainstream NGOs, International Organizations and governmental agencies and reinforce the role of the LGBTI community in creating a positive attitude towards LGBTI in Tajikistan;
- Developing a “Smart Guide” to the MSM Implementation Tool (MSMIT) and advise on quality Russian translation and cultural relevance for dissemination in Tajikistan.
3. Deliver inclusive, rights-based and gender sensitive services
- Collaborating with LGBT friendly medical specialists, referring and accompanying community members to these health care providers;
- Conducting workshops on health, safe sex and HIV/AIDS and STIs for the community;
- Defraying costs when community members require STI treatment.
4. Fostering global and in-country processes and partnerships that reinforce results
- Participating in onsultation and networking meetings to explore opportunities for the development of a NGO network in Khatlon region;
- Participating in natinal, regional and international meetings and conferences.
Our project builds on the strong advocacy work of our partner Equal Opportunities to put LGBT people’s health issues on the political agenda and get them included in national plans. Their work is internationally supported by COC, MSMGF and GNP+.
Our other projects in Tajikistan
Bridging the Gaps also has a PWUD project in Tajikistan.