Two gay men have been arrested in Uzbekistan and face charges of engaging in “illegal sexual relations”.
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.
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.
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.
It has been reported that officials in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan authorities both areas of the former Soviet Union have sought to impress their conservative credentials by persecuting the LGBT community. Both countries have recently drawn 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.