Human rights protection for sexual minorities in Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia almost non-existent | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Human rights protection for LGBTI in Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia almost non-existent

Human rights protection for LGBTI in Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia almost non-existent

Lesbian, gay, bi, trans- and intersex persons (LGBTI) still suffer from human rights violations and lack protection in countries all over Europe. Worst of all is the situation in Azerbaijan, followed by Russia, Armenia and Ukraine, according to the annual review published by ILGA Europe on occasion of the International day against homophobia and transphobia (IDAHOT) 17 May.

– The International day against homophobia and transphobia remains as important as ever, taken into consideration the brutality of the human right violations LGBTI persons face on a daily basis, says Mina Skouen, advisor on LGBTI issues in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – The fight against homophobia and transphobia is an indispensable part of preventing violations committed by authorities as well as hate crimes in general.

ILGAs review predominantly address legal protection, which is virtually non-existent in the countries at the bottom of the list. The lack of legal protection is reflected in the dire situation LGBTI finds themselves in. Reports tell about beatings, rape, outing and extortion, as well as systematic crackdowns on organizations and public events.

During the first months of 2015 the organization Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance had to suspend all activities within the country. The murder of Bakhtiyar Aliyev in Baku in February was possibly motivated by transphobia. In Russia, the Sochi Olympics in 2014 shed light on how legislation nicknamed “the homosexual propaganda law” affects Russian LGBTI persons. This is, however, only one out of many laws that have led to convictions of activists and organizations during the recent year.

Public outing of Armenian LGBTI persons have left them vulnerable to repercussions and hate crimes that according to activists are regularly committed not only by hate groups but also police and prison guards.

In Ukraine, the new government’s ambition of closer ties with EU has so far not led to any commitment to securing LGBTI persons’ human rights. Hate crimes are frequent as are attacks on public events, such as the burning of the movie theatre Zhovten during the screening of a film about trans issues in October 2014.

Our concerns also extend to the Central Asian countries. Sexual intercourse between men is still illegal in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, copies of the Russian propaganda legislation are pending in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and hate crimes are common in Tajikistan.

A common factor in most of the countries reviewed is that gender minorities remain particularly vulnerable, frequently facing compulsory sterilization and observation in psychiatric wards to achieve gender reassignment and recognition.

– Norway has been a frontrunner on promoting LGBTI rights on the international level, and we encourage Norwegian authorities to continue their important efforts at all possible occasions, says Skouen.  At the same time the reasons for Norway coming out only at the eight place in the review should be promptly addressed. One of the reasons is that legal gender recognition still requires full sterilization.

– I am sure that the tireless efforts made by human rights activist worldwide eventually will lead to positive changes, concludes Skouen. The international day against homophobia and transphobia is an important occasion to pay tribute to people who often find themselves in vulnerable and threatening situations. Authorities and civil society should use the day to re-commit to fighting homophobia and transphobia.