Posted by: kyrgyzlabrys | September 10, 2008

Labrys writes reports on sexual and reproductive rights in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

LGBT issues are now often included in discussions at the UN level which is a positive development.  At a recent speech made at World AIDS conference Ban ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, said, “I call on all countries to live up to their commitments to enact or reinforce legislation outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups. I call on them to follow Mexico’s bold example and pass laws against homophobia‘.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also takes steps in addressing human rights violations against LGBT people. Due to international efforts of sexual and reproductive health groups a lot of information is gathered and presented about the sexual and reproductive rights of LGBT people in different countries. Labrys participated in researching and preparing reports for Universal Periodic Review on Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Please, find the summary of information about LGBT rights in these countries below taken from UPR reports.

Azerbaijan

Sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination

Sexual relations between men in Azerbaijan were decriminalized in January 2001 possibly due to its being a pre-requisite for membership in the Council of Europe.

Transgender women who engage in sex work in the streets are the group which suffers the highest level of abuse from both law enforcement bodies and society. Gender reassignment surgeries and hormonal therapy are not available in Azerbaijan which considerably limits transgender women’s access to employment. Organizations working on LGBT issues in Azerbaijan report constant police abuse of transgender sex workers including arbitrary detention, blackmailing, physical and sexual violence. Sex work is not criminalized in Azerbaijan but police frequently conducts raids. In May 2007 28 transgender sex workers aged 18 to 37 were forcibly detained and taken to a police station were they were forcibly tested for STIs and HIV.  During the raid they were severely beaten and there were two gun shots made into the air to scare them. The next day they were tried in court for ‘not following police orders’ and sentenced to three days of detention. Their parents were not allowed to be in the court during the trial and the NGO representatives had difficulty accessing the detention facility. Personal belongings taken during the raid were not returned to their owners. The case was reported to the Azerbaijani Ombudsman’s office but no response was received or action taken.

Transgender women are forced to use self-harm as a means to avoid detention and sometimes agree to cooperate with the police by providing phone numbers and personal data of their clients. Police uses this information to blackmail the clients and in turn clients beat the sex workers angry that their ‘secret’ was discovered. NGOs report at least one case of murder of a transgender sex worker in retaliation.

Most lesbian, gay, bisexual and  (LGBT) people live with their families because of family pressure and the social norm that a child should live with their family until marriage. Very few LGBT people tell their families about their sexual orientation or gender identity fearing being disowned or forcibly married. Many migrate to the capital city to escape family pressure and control. In those cases in which their sexual orientation or gender identity was disclosed by the police or in the course of an accidental situation, there were cases of violence, expulsion from home, or forced marriage.

Until now there is no place for LGBT people to gather except for the office of an NGO that focuses its work on LGBT issues. Society largely believes that LGBT people are sick and immoral. It would be unsafe to run an LGBT-friendly venue because the general public could become violent against the clients of the venue.

LGBT organizing is very limited. The only LGBT NGO in the country reports that they have to use HIV as a cover-up for their work with LGBT communities and are not able to register officially as an LGBT organization which limits the scope of their work significantly. The staff of the NGO cannot appear in public speaking about LGBT rights due to fear of violence and retaliation. The NGO outreach workers working on HIV prevention who go to parks and clubs where LGBT people gather are constantly harassed by the police. Police also monitors websites which LGBT people use for meeting each other. There were cases reported of police officers meeting with LGBT people through a personals website and then blackmailing or detaining them.

Recommendations

  • Conduct proper investigations on police blackmailing, harassment and violence against  LGBT people, duly punishing those responsible and setting up administrative and legal frameworks to eradicate such practices
  • Develop legislation to address family violence and hate crimes against LGBT people
  • Develop a legal and medical system which would allow transgender people to change their bodies and legal papers in accordance with their gender identity.
  • Take all necessary steps to ensure that organizations working on LGBT issues can legally register and operate, in accordance with the non-criminalized status of same-sex relationships in the country.

Sources: Dennis Van Der Veur ‘Forced Out’, Report on Azerbaijan  ILGA-Europe/COC-Netherlands fact-finding mission on LGBT situation in Azerbaijan  ILGA-Europe, COC-Netherlands (2007), ‘Forced Out’ Report and communication with LGBT NGO in Azerbaijan

Turkmenistan

Homosexuality

33. Homosexuality is criminalized and considered a mental disorder in Turkmenistan. Men who have sex with men receive a prison sentence of 2 years for homosexual conduct. People are also sent to receive “cures” for homosexuality in psychiatric institutions. These punishments are also applicable to the situations of perceived homosexual behaviour.

34. The anti-homosexuality law does not specifically mention women who have sex with women In May 2007, Columbia Law School in United States of America secured asylum for a lesbian from Turkmenistan as she feared to face persecution because of her sexual orientation and political views.

35. Mainstream societal attitudes are openly homophobic, including medical educational resources and health providers’ performance. Lesbian, gay men, bisexual and transgender people are culturally invisible, very stigmatized, and rarely unite into the groups.

36. Recommendations:

  • Review the notion of homosexuality as a “mental disorder” that contradicts what the World Health Organization affirms since 1974. Forced psychiatric treatment attempted to “cure” homosexuality constitute a violation to the right to the highest attainable level of health and should be outlawed. Health professionals should receive updated training on how to deal with same-sex desires and practices.
  • De-criminalize consensual same-sex behaviour among adults, as according to the Human Rights Committee criminalizing it constitutes a violation of Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Turkmenistan.
  • After de-criminalization has occurred, conduct public awareness campaigns as well as focused training for public officers in the areas of health, education and law-enforcement, about non-discrimination against persons due to their consensual same-sex practices.

Sources: US Department of State. 2006. Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Turkmenistan. Available online at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78845.htm (accessed 28 June 2008)

Columbia Law. Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Secures Grant of Asylum for Lesbian from Turkmenistan, 1 May 2007. Available online at http://www.law.columbia.edu/media_inquiries/news_events/2007/may07/sexuality_law (accessed 28 June 2008)

Uzbekistan

Sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination

10. According to Article 120 of the Uzbek Criminal Code muzhelozhstvo (homosexual sexual relations between men) can be punished with up to three years of imprisonment. This article has remained in place from the Soviet era and was removed in the majority of other post-Soviet countries. Reports state that in the years 2000-2004 at least 70 men have been serving prison sentences convicted on the basis of Article 120. Existence of criminalization provides an opportunity for the police to blackmail gay and bisexual men, who are terrified of disclosure particularly before their families. A number of cases are known in which the police would use newspaper personal adds to reach out to gay and bisexual men and either arrest or blackmail them. Gay clubs and cruising areas in Tashkent are also frequented by police, in their pursuit of opportunities for blakcmailing.

11. The state used Article 120 to persecute a human rights activist, Ruslan Sharipov, who is now living in the United States after the intervention of international human rights organizations. Two colleagues of Sharipov have been detained and interrogated on Article 120 charges in 2004. In 2007 a prominent theater director whose plays contained homosexual characters was stabbed to death in Tashkent. Without any solid evidence to sustain the accusation, the police arrested Oleg Sarapulov, a journalist, who was known for addressing the rights of LGBT people in his reports and charged him with the murder. This case is illustrative of the misuse of the criminalization of same sex contacts as grounds to silence activists.

12. LGBT people in Uzbekistan live in fear and a number of them migrate abroad. LGBT people in rural areas are subject to violence and harassment from their families and peers. Most of them break off all social networks in order avoid disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Families disown their LGBT relatives and may turn to violence in order to cover what they consider ‘shame for the family’. None of these human rights violations are reported to the police because of the existence of Article 120 and overall lack of trust to law enforcement bodies. There are no other laws that could help address family or street violence against LGBT people.

13. LGBT organizing to pursue respect of their human rights is impossible due to existing political and social climate.

14. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people along with sex workers are targets of ridicule and reproach by the media, mostly controlled by the State. State media use judgmental and offensive language regarding these groups and use the public disapproval of them to discredit non-grata international organizations (for example, Human Rights Watch).

15. Recommendations:

  • Repeal article 120 of the Criminal Code.
  • Conduct proper investigations on police blackmailing of the LGBT people, duly punishing those responsible and setting up administrative and legal frameworks to eradicate such practices
  • Develop legislation to address family violence and hate crimes against LGBT people

Sources used: International Research Center on Social Minorities Report ‘Sexual Minorities in Uzbekistan’ (December 2005), Sexual Minorities in Uzbekistan (2005)

http://www.gay.com/content/tools/print.html?coll=news_articles&sernum=2007/09/07/2&navpath=channels/news (accessed 29 June 2008), Article about Sarapulov in Russian http://www.ferghana.ru/article.php?id=1722 (accessed 29 June 2008), Link to series of articles condemning Human Rights Watch and LGBT people : http://press-uz.info/index.php?title=home&nid=544&my=042008&st=0 (accessed 29 June 2008 )

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