The President of Uzbekistan has claimed that homosexuality is “vulgar” and gay people are mentally ill.
The former Soviet country, which continues to have strong ties to Russia, continues to criminalise homosexuality for men – with gays facing up to three years in jail.
Despite some progress in other areas on LGBT issues, there is little formal LGBT movement in Uzbekistan – which shares a border with Afghanistan.
The country’s President Islam Karimov ranted about gay people in a televised meeting last week – claiming that homosexuality is a “vulgar” Western invention.
In a video translated by Radio Free Europe, he aped some of Russia’s most extreme homophobes, insisting: “We talk about so-called Western culture. We call it vulgar culture. You know what I mean.
“It’s inappropriate even to speak about this in front of women.
“When men live with men and women live with women, I think there must be something wrong up here [points at head].
“Something is broken here. There is a saying: When God wants to reveal someone’s vulgarity, he first takes his reason away.”
His views are not a surprise – in 2013, diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks showed that Karimov believes “Western style” democracy is linked to homosexuality.
In conversation with the US ambassador, Mr Karimov clarified that “Western-style” democracy was not appropriate for Uzbekistan, claiming the country’s 85% Muslim population would not accept it.
Instead, he said the government would have to implement democracy “specific to its culture”.
Mr Karimov then claimed that homosexuality is “disgusting” to Uzbeks, and that therefore Western democracy would violate Uzbekistan’s “moral purity… because it allows for or fosters the practice of homosexuality”.