“Reverse Rainbow”

Violations of the rights of LGBTI+ people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Russia has enshrined discrimination against LGBTI+ people in the law in the form of a ban on “the promotion of non-traditional relationships between minors,” which effectively places restrictions on any serious conversation about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), on the distribution of information, and on events (gay pride marches, demonstrations, protests). In the Republic of Chechnya, LGBTI+ people face arrest, violence, and murder (both within the family and in prison), and gay and lesbian Chechens who leave for other regions of Russia are threatened and sometimes kidnapped and taken back to Chechnya, where they are tortured in prison..

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan still have criminal prosecution for homosexual relations. Hundreds of men in Turkmenistan have been convicted under these charges, sentenced to extended prison terms, and subjected to torture and humiliation. In Uzbekistan, dozens of men are prosecuted under a similarly discriminatory article of the country’s Criminal Code. The Uzbek government is considering revoking this article, but there are fears that the criminalization of same-sex relationships will persist in one form or another

In Tajikistan, it is impossible to publicly discuss LGBTI+ rights, register human rights organizations and combat discrimination on the basis of SOGI, or speak openly about orientation and identity. Both society and the government reject LGBTI+ people and practice various types of “traditional treatment” for homosexuality, “rebukes,” and so forth.

LGBTI+ activists in Azerbaijan are persecuted; any attempt they make to appear in public space (in the media, at any demonstration) is suppressed, and human rights defenders are subjected to repressions.

In Belarus, restrictions on freedom of speech and expression have peaked in the past year, with independent NGOs, activists, and journalists facing persecution. Most LGBTI+ human rights defenders have been forced to flee the country or conceal their activities.

Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have LGBTI+ initiatives that have been able to help some victims of discrimination, but it is extremely difficult and even often impossible for them to speak out publicly at pride marches, in the media, or on political platforms. Like activists, the entire LGBTI+ community is under constant pressure from the conservative and religious part of society, and many suffer from being rejected by their families and at work and have to deal with danger on the streets and bribery and extortion by the police.

Armenia is discussing a comprehensive antidiscrimination law, but the request of the LGBTI+ community and human rights defenders to add SOGI as one cause of discrimination has been met with resistance from both legislators and the church. Patriarchal relationships in many families and communities and, often, harassment result in exclusion, loneliness, and psychological trauma for many LGBTI+ people. However, there have been cases when Armenian courts have recognized discrimination on the basis of SOGI. In one case, people were denied access to sports clubs and other public places because of their gender identity.

Ukraine has an antidiscrimination law, and Moldova has a similar law on equality, but SOGI is not listed as a ground for discrimination in either country. Both Ukrainian and Moldovan societies have regular discussions about the need to enshrine protection from discrimination on the basis of SOGI in the law, but this is met with resistance from conservative parts of society and the church. Amendments to laws and codes are being developed to bring them into line with international antidiscrimination law, and LGBTI+ rights are being protected in courts. Demonstrations and pride marches are held in the capitals under police protection, but appearances by LGBTI+ people in other cities are often disrupted by aggressive homophobes.

Georgia’s antidiscrimination law contains a ban on discrimination on the basis of SOGI, and its courts and ombudsman’s office review complaints about this, often finding that discrimination has occurred. Nevertheless, Georgia’s LGBTI+ community faces rejection and aggression from the conservative and patriarchal part of society and homophobic attacks at LGBTI+ demonstrations and pride marches. And, just like in other East European and Central Asian countries, Georgia does not allow single-sex relationships or marriages to be officially registered and does not recognize children in LGBTI+ families as common to both parents.