It’s Way Past Time for Uzbekistan to Decriminalize Same-Sex Conduct

It’s Way Past Time for Uzbekistan to Decriminalize Same-Sex Conduct

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Uzbekistan is facing a unique opportunity to finally decriminalize same-sex conduct between men in the country. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has served as President since 2016, has launched a number of progressive reforms under his leadership. Now, gay Uzbekistan nationals could see reform of the country’s criminal justice system.

Currently, Article 120 of the country’s Criminal Code “stipulates that ‘bezakalbazlyk’ (sodomy), voluntary sexual intercourse between two male individuals, is punishable by one to three years of restricted liberty, or by up to three years of imprisonment.”

Gay Uzbekistan nationals are thus subjected to persecution, state surveillance and arbitrary arrests by the government by both state and non-state actors. Bias-motivated violence is a major problem faced by gay Uzbekistan nationals; and in fact, the UN Committee Against Torture has recommended that all allegations on torture against LGBTQ folks be investigated.

The flag of Uzbekistan flown at a Pride parade in New York City

One Hornet user and LGBTQ+ rights activist, Mat, wrote in to us to inform us of the situation. He said, “Uzbekistan is on the verge of adopting [a] new criminal code, despite many appeals from human rights organisations the state sponsored homophobia is still persistent and growing strong.”

On Feb. 22, 2021, the Uzbek Prosecutor General’s Office released a draft of the new Criminal Code — which notably did not remove the provision for the criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct between men. Uzbekistan is one of only two Central Asian countries to retain such legislation, now included as Article 154 in a newly created Chapter of the Criminal Code: “Crimes against family, children and morality.”

This is distressing for a number of reasons. In Mat’s words, “Uzbekistan is following [Russia’s] example and thus announcing gay men a threat to children, family integrity in country, giving more green light for homophobic gangs [to] kill LGBTQI people like it happens in Chechnya.”

ILGA-Europe, in a joint statement with a number of human rights organizations including Citizens’ Watch, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), have called on the Uzbek government and President Mirziyoyev to decriminalise same-sex conduct between men under the reform of the Criminal Code.

Part of their statement reads:

We recall that as a party to the international human rights treaties, Uzbekistan is obliged to protect the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. We also remind that when applying for membership at the UN Human Rights Council, Uzbekistan committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and the adoption of a range of legislative, institutional and administrative measures to fulfil its international obligations in the field of human rights, and pledged to protect, promote and support universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

The statement reminds the government of Uzbekistan that traditions, religions and belief cannot be used to perpetrate harms and prejudice against LGBTQ people and rights, and that human rights are “universal and inalienable.” The statement also reminds Uzbekistan of its agreement to uphold and ensure human rights standards such as liberty, dignity and equality before the law for all people — as outlined by the legally binding treaties that Uzbekistan has ratified.

You can read the full statement here.

ILGA-Europe is an international umbrella organization working toward political, legal, and social change for LGBTI people throughout Central Asia and Europe.

Will gay Uzbekistan residents finally see same-sex conduct decriminalized? It’s about time.

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