A registry of 367 suspected gay men and lesbians has been created by the Interior Ministry and General Prosecutor’s Office of Tajikistan. Authorities stated that the registry was created in order to identify LGBT individuals, which the government required to take blood tests for STDs. The list was created using operations which the government titled “purge” and “morality.”
Although it is being passed off as “protecting” the public from sexually transmitted diseases, LGBT and human rights groups have said they are not fooled and that the list reflects the intense homophobia of the area and is a breach of privacy. Jessica Stern, the executive director of Outright International, a global NGO which addresses LGBT issues, stated that the “grotesque and dehumanizing registry” perpetuates stereotypes. Although rates of HIV are disproportionately higher among the LGBT community, the STD is not a strictly “gay” disease.
Although Tajikistan has a secular government, it has a Muslim majority and is strictly conservative. The LGBT community is forced to be incredibly secretive in order to avoid hate crimes and being socially ostracized. Homosexuality is not criminalized, but is seen as a disease and frowned on. An official from the Ministry of Health, whose identity is anonymous because they were not cleared to speak openly to the press, recently stated:
“Homosexuality is contrary to nature […] Although it has been removed from the [government’s] list of treatable illnesses, many doctors still see it as a disease which can be treated with medicine. I have heard reports of the use of aversion therapy, psychiatric treatment and the use of testosterone-boosting drugs.”
Police in Tajikistan are violent and aggressive towards LGBT individuals. They have beaten, raped and exploited LGBT individuals, regularly using intimidation, blackmail, arbitrary arrest and physical or sexual abuse as harassment tactics. This database could make it easier for police to find and target suspects. Steve Swerdlow, a Turkistan-based Central Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, noted that the registry “represents an opportunity for police to extort money from members of the community, and non-members of the community, by outing them, the consequences which can be disastrous for these individuals.”
There is growing concern about the welfare and rights of LGBT+ individuals in Muslim-majority regions which are located in the former Soviet Union. Tajikistan is close to Chechnya and Azerbaijan, where dozens of LGBT+ individuals are being rounded up by police and either fined, put in jail, harassed, tortured or murdered.
Image Credit: The Daily Star UK