Human Rights Watch (HRW) says gay men in Uzbekistan face arbitrary detention, prosecution, and imprisonment and has called on the Central Asian nation's government to guarantee their rights and decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct.
In a statement issued on March 23, HRW said gay men in the former Soviet republic, a current member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, face "homophobia, threats, and extortion" and the criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct remains "a significant stain" on Tashkent’s record.
"Uzbekistan should decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct by repealing Article 120 of the criminal code and excluding any provisions criminalizing same-sex conduct from its new criminal code," the HRW statement said.
The rights watchdog also called on Tashkent to "investigate attacks and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including threats made by law enforcement officers...and hold those responsible to account."
"Uzbekistan’s international partners should press Uzbekistan to decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct in keeping with its obligations to uphold key human rights standards," the HRW's statement said.
HRW emphasized that a draft of Uzbekistan's new Criminal Code, published on February 22, still addresses same-sex sexual conduct as a crime, as the legislation only changes the article's number from 120 to 154 and not the wording.
“Criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct is fundamentally incompatible with international human rights norms and keeping it on the books contributes to an environment of fear and hostility for LGBT people in Uzbekistan,” Hugh Williamson, director of the Europe and Central Asia division at HRW, said.
“If Uzbekistan wants to show the world it is serious about respecting human rights, parliament should decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct before it adopts a new Criminal Code.”
Uzbekistan and neighboring Turkmenistan are the last former Soviet republics where same-sex consensual sex conduct is officially a crime, but sexual minorities still face firmly entrenched social taboos across the region.