Gay and bisexual men in Kyrgyzstan are routinely subject to violence, sexual abuse, and extortion by police, a report by global watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) published on January 29 found.
“Gay and bisexual men are easy targets for abuse due to deep social conservatism," HRW said. “Pervasive homophobia in society and widespread police corruption contribute to these abuses.”
Many of the 40 men interviewed for the study “reported ill-treatment in police detention, including being punched, kicked, or beaten with gun butts or other objects,” HRW said.
Some “reported sexual violence by police officers, including rape, group rape, attempts to insert a stick, hammer, or electric shock device inside the victim’s anus, unwanted touching during a search, or being forced to undress in front of police.” On occasion the abuse “rose to the level of torture.”
HRW released disturbing video of men recalling their ill-treatment at the hands of police in Kyrgyzstan, which decriminalized consensual sex between men in 1998. “They detained me, drove me to their office, undressed me, abused me in many ways, hit me, tormented me with a beer bottle, a coffee can, metal hangers, and they kicked me,” one interviewee, Mikhail Kudryashov, recalled. “I still have a lot of scars and marks from the beating.”
Kudryashov – who was fired from his job, disowned by his relatives, and threatened with excommunication by his church after information about his sexual orientation became widely known – took his case all the way to the Supreme Court to try and prove he was tortured, but failed to gain legal redress.
“They put plastic bags on our heads and told us to get undressed,” another man identified only by his first name, Demetra, said. “They abused us and hit us in the face. I’m still missing teeth.”
“Police in Kyrgyzstan target gay and bisexual men, extorting money from them and beating them up, telling them that they will disclose their sexual orientation to their family,” HRW researcher Anna Kirey said. “One of the first cases we documented was the case of two gay men raped and beaten severely for three days continuously in police custody.”
The report urges the Kyrgyz government to “acknowledge the scope and gravity of the problem of police violence and extortion against gay and bisexual people in Kyrgyzstan, and commit to taking all necessary steps to end these abuses.” It includes a list of recommendations to ministries, law-enforcement agencies, and human rights bodies, and urges Western governments to condemn police violence against gay and bisexual men and make financial and other support available for training for LGBT rights (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) organizations and the security forces.
LGBT communities frequently face prejudice in conservative Central Asian societies. As EurasiaNet.org reported last fall, members faced a barrage of homophobic outbursts in Kazakhstan’s parliament last year which have continued into 2014.