Two gay men have been arrested and forcibly subjected to anal examinations in Uzbekistan, one of Central Asia’s harshest countries for LGBTQ people.
The detainees are a couple in their 20s, according to a new report from EurasiaNet. Authorities say the men moved into an apartment together in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent after meeting in December, although little is known at the time of writing about the circumstances of their arrest. Reports claim the couple was “engaging in illegal sexual relations.”
The men were reportedly made to undergo inspections to “prove” their homosexuality, a discredited practice that has been likened to sexual assault and torture by LGBTQ advocacy groups.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called for a ban on anal examinations.
Uzbekistan is one of three former Soviet nations where same-sex intercourse is a crime. A Communist-era law mandates three years behind bars for men caught engaging in sodomy, although the criminal code isn’t clear on punishments for lesbianism.
The Asian republic has continually resisted pressure from international groups to strike down the law, listed under Article 120 of the criminal code.
Former President Islam Karimov, who ruled from 1991 to his death last year, referred to homosexuality as “disgusting” and a “vile phenomenon of Western culture.” He also suggested that someone would have to be insane to be in a relationship with another member of their same sex.
“If a man lives with a man, or a woman with a woman, I think that something there isn’t quite right, or some change has happened,” Karimov claimed in February 2016.
His replacement, Nigmatilla Yuldashev, has done little to change his predecessor’s tune.
LGBTQ people frequently face harassment, violence, and even death in Uzbekistan, where queer and trans individuals have extremely few rights. The country lacks any non-discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Earlier this year cellphone footage recorded in the southeastern town of Fergana showed four men stripping a man naked and beating him in order to force him to admit to being gay. In the video, the assailants make the unidentified figure sit on a bottle of beer until the container penetrates his anus.
Although life can be easier in the more tolerant cities, it’s extremely bleak in rural areaswhere transgender women and gay men often face honor killings if they are outed.
A gay journalist, Khudoberdy Nurmatov, faced deportation back to Uzbekistan earlier this year from Russian authorities. Nurmatov was reportedly tortured and abused during his detention, but his lawyers argued he would be subjected to worse if the reporter wasn’t granted asylum. They claimed that going back to his home country would be a “death sentence.”
Uzbek officials have yet to comment on reports of this week’s arrests.
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