On Wednesday, January 29, the Human Rights Watch released a report on gay men in Kyrgyzstan facing physical and sexual abuse by the police force.
The report, conducted between July 2012 and February 2013, is devised from intensive interviews with forty gay and bisexual men across four different cities in Kyrgyzstan, who described in detail the various forms of abuse they were subject to.
According to the report, at least twelve gay men who had experienced police abuse declined to be interviewed due to fear of retaliation.
Homosexual sex was decriminalized in Kyrgyzstan in 1998, but unfortunately there remains a socially inherent homophobia throughout the country. Not only does Kyrgyzstan place a huge pressure on men and women to enter heterosexual marriages, but society has also maintained an expectation of masculine conformity for men, making homophobia an inevitable result towards those who do not conform.
According to the report, men recounted being blackmailed, beaten with various objects, raped (including gang rape), and sexually violated with various different objects by the police.
One of the rape victims was seventeen years old.
Police also told many victims that they “deserved it,” and told them to write down the names of other gay people so they could target them too.
The majority of victims said the police threatened to expose their sexuality to their families, which could lose them everything due to the homophobic culture, unless they paid them. The report suggested that men were forced to pay between $12 and $1,000 USD in order to avoid death threats and further violence.
One victim, twenty-four-year-old Mikhail Kudryashov, told Human Rights Watch that he was stabbed with a pen when he refused to give the names of other gay men. When the police exposed him, he was fired from his job, disowned by his family, and excommunicated from his church.
One man, thirty-two-year-old Demetra D, claimed that on four separate occasions between 2004 and 2011, police raped him, attempted to rape him or allowed other detainees to rape him. Whilst describing his experience, Demetra D said, “They didn’t want to listen to our pleas. They said that we are fags and deserve this, and that we don’t deserve to be on earth. After they raped us, they left us there. We had to walk back.”
Out of the forty men, only two who were interviewed reported the abuse to authorities. One of the complaints received no response, while the officials in charge of the other refused to open a criminal investigation.
An LGBT rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, Anna Kirey, said “Gay and bisexual men in Kyrgyzstan already live in fear due to widespread homophobic attitudes, and the police are making a nightmarish situation even worse. Kyrgyzstan authorities at the very top levels need to call a halt to this police abuse and make sure that gay and bisexual men have the protection they need.”
Kyrgyzstan’s laws state that public officials are prohibited from committing physical acts of violence, which could be punishable by up to eight years in prison. However, although the Kyrgyzstan government has taken measures to eradicate torture and violence by officials in detention centers, those who are not imprisoned have no effective way to file complaints.
It is clear to see that with both of the complaints filed by the victims being completely ignored or dismissed, these offenses are often overlooked and victims are not taken seriously.
Human Rights Watch has asked the Kyrgyzstan government to step in, but the Interior Ministry called their allegations unfounded.