Two gay men have been arrested in Uzbekistan and face charges of engaging in illegal sexual relations. The incident is a rare example of enforcement of the law banning consensual sexual relations between men.
According to city police, the two men, who are both in their twenties, met in early September and moved into a rented apartment in Tashkent.
Police told media last week that they conducted intrusive, forensic medical examinations to confirm that one of the men had allegedly engaged in repeated sexual intercourse. Consensual sex between men is punishable in Uzbekistan by up to three years in prison.
Potential prosecution is only the least of what gay people in Uzbekistan are liable to face in their daily life. Intimidation — up to and including brutal physical assault — is commonplace.
This stance was given official sanction under the late President Islam Karimov, who remarked in February 2016 that same-sex relationships were a “vile phenomenon of Western culture.”
“If a man lives with a man, or a woman with a women, I think that something there isn’t quite right, or some change has happened,” Karimov said.
In some isolated instances, attacks are caught on camera and circulated online. That happened at the end of September, when a group of young men in the Ferghana region filmed themselves beating a naked man and forcing him to confess on camera to being gay. In that instance, the attackers were reportedly arrested, although the fate of their victim is not known.
International rights activists have appealed with the Uzbek government to repeal Article 120 of the criminal code, which criminalizes sexual relations between men.
“It is unacceptable to persecute people for the fact that they consensually engage in same-sex relations. Every person is free to determine their own relations. This incident is nothing but a demonstrative act of discrimination toward the LGBT community and reflects the policies of the current regime,” said Nadezhda Atayeva, president of the Paris-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia.
Authorities in several areas of the former Soviet world have sought to impress their conservative credentials by persecuting the LGBT community.
Earlier in the year, reports emerged from Chechnya that more than 100 gay and bisexual men had been arrested and detained without charge. People swept up in the wave of detentions reported that torture of detainees was commonplace and that up to 20 men may have been killed.
Later, officials in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan drew up registries of people they suspected of belonging to their country’s gay and lesbian communities as part of a purported efforts to promote sexual health and moral behavior.