Kyrgyzstan’s male-dominated culture: Many people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community hide their identities or lead double lives to avoid the social isolation, public discrimination, and even physical violence
The LGBT community in Kyrgyzstan is gaining some momentum as it strives for its rights, but members still face widespread discrimination and violence – both on the streets and in their own homes.
The roots of prejudice against the LGBT community run deep in Kyrgyzstan, a predominately Islamic country. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2005 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Kyrgyzstan, “people of nontraditional sexual orientation, particularly homosexual men, were among the most oppressed groups, although the country does not outlaw homosexuality. Those whose sexuality was publicly known risked physical and verbal abuse, possible loss of work, and unwanted attention from police and authorities, particularly lower-ranking police. Incarcerated gay men were often openly victimized in prisons by inmates and officials alike.”
During the Soviet era, sex between men in Kyrgyzstan was a criminal offense. The Kyrgyz Criminal Code of 1998 lifted the legal ban on homosexual acts, but discrimination and denial still reach high into the realms of state power. Tursunbek Akun, the head of the State Human Rights Commission, said in 2004 that homosexuality is “one of those negative consequences of the Western civilization that gradually comes to us together with elements of democracy.”
“Non-traditional sexual orientation offends the honor and advantage of men and women and historically developed interfamily relations of the Kyrgyz,” he continued.
At a roundtable discussion in May 2005 about homophobia and transphobia, two representatives from the Interior Ministry, who would not give their names, said that they do not believe LGBT individuals’ human rights are violated in Kyrgyzstan and that they have never heard of violence against members of the LGBT community. One representative went on to say, “Let’s say I walk in a park with my son – I have just one son — there are two guys walking holding each other’s hands. I would beat them up.”
Moreover, some doctors and psychologists treat non-traditional sexual identities as mental flaws. An Open Society Institute-Soros Foundation Report on the LGBT community’s access to health care quotes a psychologist in the southern part of the country as saying, “LGBT are people who probably had defects during their upbringing.”