Kyrgyzstan: Protect Lesbians and Transgender Men From Abuse

For Immediate Release

Kyrgyzstan: Protect Lesbians and Transgender Men From Abuse

European Institutions Should Help End the Violence

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - Lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men face violent abuse,
including rape, in Kyrgyzstan, both in family settings and from
strangers on the street, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued
today. The report calls on the Kyrgyz government to acknowledge the
problem and protect the victims, and on the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other European institutions to
step up their response to violence based on sexual orientation and
gender identity.

Based on detailed interviews, the 49-page report, "These Everyday Humiliations: Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan,"
tells of beatings, forced marriages, and physical and psychological
abuse faced by lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men. The
government refuses to protect them or to confront the atmosphere of
prejudice in which the attacks take place.
 
 

"No one should have to confront brutality or danger because
of who they are or whom they love," said Boris Dittrich, advocacy
director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program
at Human Rights Watch. "It is time for the government to protect these
communities instead of denying they exist."
  

The report notes that the OSCE, which conducts programs in
Kyrgyzstan, works to combat hate crimes and identity-based violence
throughout Europe. However, the United States and the Holy See have
blocked including sexual orientation in its mandate.
  

Several people interviewed for the report said they had
been raped to punish them for not conforming to gender norms, or to
"cure" them of their difference. One lesbian told how, when she was 15,
her girlfriend's brothers raped her brutally, saying: "This is your
punishment for being this way and hanging around our sister."
 

  Another woman told Human Rights Watch that an acquaintance
locked her in a room and allowed several men to rape her. The men
promised the acquaintance "that they would help her to ‘cure' me" of
being a lesbian, she said. 

Pervasive social prejudice in the Central Asian country
leaves the victims with little hope of government protection, the
report says. The police themselves sometimes abuse lesbian and bisexual
women and transgender men. Police have also raided and harassed
organizations that defend the basic rights of these groups.
 
 

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

In all of Kyrgyzstan, only one shelter for survivors of
domestic violence - run by a nongovernmental organization - offers
specific services for lesbians or transgender people.
 
 

A sweeping law passed in 2003 should protect all victims of
domestic violence. However, the report found that much more needs to be
done to carry out the law, including training criminal justice
officials to investigate domestic violence and educating the general
public about the law's provisions.
 
 

The government has ignored the need to address issues of
sexual orientation or gender identity. In some cases, officials have
actually endorsed hatred and violence. In 2005, a Ministry of Interior
official said of lesbians and gay men at a human rights roundtable: "I
would also beat them. Let's say I walk in a park with my son. And there
are two guys walking holding each other's hands. I would beat them up
too."
 
 

While Kyrgyzstan has made efforts to respond to violence
against women overall, some groups are still ignored or excluded. Human
Rights Watch called on Kyrgyz authorities to improve direct services
for lesbians and transgender men; to train state officials in issues of
sexual orientation and gender identity; to educate the public about
domestic violence and sexual-rights issues, and to create measures for
legal identity change to respect and recognize each person's
self-defined gender identity. 

 Human Rights Watch also urged the OSCE to address human
rights issues, including discrimination and violence against lesbians
and transgender men, in its trainings for police and other programs in
Kyrgyzstan.
  

"Programs to stop violence will not work unless they reach
everyone who is vulnerable," Dittrich said. "Europe should not join
Kyrgyzstan's government in turning a blind eye." 

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