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.
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.”