Uzbekistan police torture, extort and threaten LGBTQ+ people with rape, disturbing report finds

Danai Nesta Kupemba June 12, 2022
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Uzbekistan LGBT+ continue to face violent human rights violations. (Photo by Monirul Bhuiyan / AFP) (Photo by MONIRUL BHUIYAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A new report has found that the LGBTQ+ community in Uzbekistan is under renewed threat as many face persecution, imprisonment, abuse, and brutal human rights violations.

Thirty-six LGBTQ+ people were convicted under the Article 120 of the Uzbek Criminal Code, which criminalises homosexuality in the majority Muslim country, in 2021, found a new report by the International Partnership for Human Rights, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), and the Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity (ECOM).

Twenty-five of them were imprisoned.

Police play a key part in the persecution of queer folk, demanding money in exchange for not outing people to relatives, and torturing and humiliating them.

One young man recounted his experience in a detention centre in the report, and said: “They suspended me from the ceiling using handcuffs, beat me severely, and tried to rape me with a truncheon.

“I have never been beaten and intimidated like that in my entire life. I wanted to die to free myself from this torture.”

The police told him to pay $2,000 (£1,623) or face imprisonment under Article 120. The man paid the police officers and was released.

Elsewhere in the report, one gay man reflected on Uzbekistan attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. He said: “It’s as if we lived on a different planet, where it is normal to hate, imprison, discriminate, and kill people simply for who they are.”

Uzbekistan redrafting of the criminal code will make life harder for LGBT+ people. ( Credit: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)

Stories like this continue to crop up in the former Soviet country, the only one which still hasn’t removed its Soviet-era anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

The report even found that police use information from HIV centres to find people in order to exploit and extort money from them.

Currently under Article 120, same-sex sexual conduct can be a punishable offence up to three years. Uzbekistan is currently drafting a new criminal code but the law would merely transpose Article 120 into a new Article 154, with the wording unchanged, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Between 2017 and 2021 it was reported by HRW that police carried out bogus, debunked anal examinations to find and prosecute men for same-sex relations, but these were in fact found to be forms of torture and abuse.

Politicians have stood in between any kind of legislation changes.

In 2021 Alisher Kadyrov, leader of Uzbekistan’s National Revival party, even suggested identifying LGBTQ+ people in the country and taking away their citizenship so that other countries could offer them refuge.

“When I put forward this proposal on social networks, up to 100 LGBT people got in touch with me and agreed with what I had said,” Kadyrov said, according to EurasiaNet.

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