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LGBTQ activism in Uzbekistan ‘is almost impossible’

Human rights activist speaks after call to end so-called anal tests

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Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Photo courtesy of Bigstock)

A human rights activist in Uzbekistan says LGBTQ people in their country continue to live in fear.

“Members of the LGBT community continue to be intimidated,” the human rights activist told the Washington Blade this week. “Activism and protection of the rights of LGBT representatives is almost impossible in the country.”

“There are no mechanisms that would somehow help people who are already in a complex psycho-emotional state,” added the human rights activist. “It is not possible to ask for help if you suffered on the basis of your sexual orientation; either from law enforcement agencies, doctors, psychologists or other structures that should provide this assistance.”

Uzbekistan is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Human Rights Watch; the Council for Global Equality; the Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity; Freedom Now; Human Dignity Trust; the Human Rights Campaign; ILGA-Europe; the International Partnership for Human Rights and the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany in an Aug. 5 press release noted Uzbek authorities between 2017 and this year have subjected at least six men to so-called anal exams to prove they engaged in consensual same-sex sexual relations. The groups urged President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to immediately ban this practice.

“Forced anal examinations, and their use in seeking convictions for consensual same-sex conduct, are an appalling violation of basic rights that diminishes Uzbekistan’s efforts to make its poor human rights record a thing of the past,” said Human Rights Watch Associate LGBT Rights Director Neela Ghoshal in the press release. “The Uzbek government has been vocal about its intent to make human rights reforms, yet persists in using a discredited, abusive procedure that amounts to torture.”

The human rights activist spoke with the Blade days after Human Rights Watch and the other groups urged the Uzbek government to ban anal exams. The Blade on Thursday reached out to the Uzbek government, the Uzbek Embassy in D.C. and Uzbek Ambassador to the U.S. Javlon Vakhabov for comment.

Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic in Central Asia that borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Mirziyoyev has been Uzbekistan’s president since 2016.

The human rights activist — who asked the Blade not to publish their name — said Mirziyoyev promised “radical changes in all areas, especially in the field of human rights.”

“The entire world community, like the entire population of Uzbekistan, expected global changes in these areas, but almost five years have passed since he has been in power and much that was promised was simply forgotten or rejected under various pretexts,” said the human rights activist. “During all five years of government as president in the field of LGBT rights, nothing was done except aggravating the situation and worsening the situation of the LGBT community in Uzbekistan.”

The human rights activist noted Article 120 of the Uzbek penal code “is directed primarily against men, but the presence of an article in society is perceived as a ban on the entire LGBT community.” They also said efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in Uzbekistan have been “rejected, citing the thinking of civil society.”

The human rights activist told the Blade that prominent politicians and religious officials in their country publicly say LGBTQ people should undergo treatment, lose their citizenship and be destroyed.

A new criminal code that Uzbek lawmakers approved in February contains a provision that addresses “crimes against morals, youth and family.” The human rights activist with whom the Blade spoke sarcastically said “it turns out that the LGBT community in the country is the culprit of problems in families, in young people.”

“Representatives of the LGBT community in Uzbekistan have no protection and no rights,” said the human rights activist. “In addition, the lack of support from civil society, the imposition of a negative image of the LGBT community on people deprive them of the support of civil society, because people have been introduced to the idea that if you are willing to help the LGBT community, then you are necessarily part of them and should be subject to punishment.”

“Open homophobia and unleashed hands of law enforcement agencies allow the use of any methods of pressure and torture on people who are charged under Article 120, because no one will help in this situation,” added the human rights activist.

The human rights activist told the Blade that they welcome the call for Mirziyoyev to ban anal tests in Uzbekistan. The human rights activist added they are hopeful the U.S. and European Union can potentially spur Mirziyoyev’s government to do more to protect LGBTQ Uzbeks.

“The hope of the LGBT community of Uzbekistan is connected precisely with the possibility of influence from the government of America and the European Union on this issue,” said the human rights activist, while adding the pandemic has forced the U.S. and European countries to shift their priorities.

The human rights activist noted Uzbekistan is a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council and “has undertaken to promote and protect human rights and to adopt a number of legislative, institutional and administrative measures to fulfill its international human rights obligations, and has undertaken to protect, promote and uphold universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”

The human rights activist also pointed out the EU does not impose tariffs on goods it imports from Uzbekistan.

“The EU made concessions to Uzbekistan in this matter when it gave it the status of its partner,” they noted. “But at the same time Uzbekistan is not confused in fulfilling its obligations.”

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Russia

Putin slams LGBTQ people in Ukraine annexation speech

The international community has condemned sham referenda

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(YouTube screenshot from AFP/NBC)

In a rally ceremony that resembled a political convention on Sept. 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his signing a degree that Russia had annexed four regions of Eastern Ukraine that were overrun by Russian military forces and Russian-backed separatists.

“The people made their choice,” said Putin in the formal signing ceremony at the Kremlin’s St. George Hall. “And that choice won’t be betrayed” by Russia, he said.

This past week, in an election President Joe Biden labeled fraudulent and a sham, Ukrainians in the occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia voted to join Russia in elections supervised by heavily armed Russian troops.

Speaking from the White House on Sept. 30, Biden said the U.S. and its allies will not recognize Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian regions and reaffirmed that NATO countries will defend all territory in the alliance.

Addressing the Russian leader, Biden said “Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”

America and its allies are not going to — I’m going to emphasize, are not going to be intimidated, are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats. He’s not going to scare us and he doesn’t — or intimidate us.

Putin’s actions are a sign he’s struggling. The sham referenda he carried out and this routine he put on, don’t worry, it’s not there if you’re looking, OK. The sham routine that we put on this morning that’s showing the unity and people holding hands together. Well, the United States is never going to recognize this and quite frankly, the world is not going to recognize it either. He can’t seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it. It’s as simple as that.

And they’re going to stay the course. We’re going to continue to provide military equipment so that Ukraine can defend itself and its territory and its freedom, … And we’re fully prepared to defend, I want to say this again, America is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO’s territory, every single inch. So Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”

Putin in his speech at the ceremony, which took place on a massive stage in Moscow’s Red Square opposite the Kremlin’s walls, took aim at the West with particular emphasis on Western values and culture.

“Western countries have been repeating for centuries that they bring freedom and democracy to other peoples. Everything is exactly the opposite: instead of democracy — suppression and exploitation; instead of freedom — enslavement and violence,” Putin said.

Later during the speech Putin decried the LGBTQ community and Western nations that allow equity and equality and human rights:

“In fact, they spit on the natural right of billions of people, most of humanity, to freedom and justice, to determine their own future on their own. Now they have completely moved to a radical denial of moral norms, religion, and family.

Let’s answer some very simple questions for ourselves. I now want to return to what I said, I want to address all the citizens of the country — not only to those colleagues who are in the hall — to all the citizens of Russia: do we want to have, here, in our country, in Russia, parent number one, number two, number three instead of mom and dad — have they gone made out there? Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on children in our schools from the primary grades? To be drummed into them that there are various supposed genders besides women and men, and to be offered a sex change operation? Do we want all this for our country and our children? For us, all this is unacceptable, we have a different future, our own future?”

Putin then implied directly that the U.S. and its NATO allies assisting Ukraine were trying to erase Russian culture and then justified the annexation of the four regions in Eastern Ukraine:

“Today we are fighting so that it would never occur to anyone that Russia, our people, our language, our culture can be taken and erased from history. Today, we need the consolidation of the entire society, and such cohesion can only be based on sovereignty, freedom, creation and justice. Our values ​​are humanity, mercy and compassion.

And I want to end my speech with the words of a true patriot Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin: ‘If I consider Russia my Motherland, then this means that I love in Russian, contemplate and think, sing and speak Russian; that I believe in the spiritual strength of the Russian people. His spirit is my spirit; his fate is my fate; his suffering is my grief; its flowering is my joy.’

Behind these words is a great spiritual choice, which for more than a thousand years of Russian statehood was followed by many generations of our ancestors. Today we are making this choice, the citizens of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, the residents of Zaporozhye and Kherson regions have made this choice. They made the choice to be with their people, to be with the Motherland, to live its destiny, to win together with it.”

Putin has long held homophobic and transphobic opinions and has signed multiple pieces of legislation that has sharply curtailed LGBTQ rights and expression in Russia during his 18 years as president, including the country’s “Don’t Say Gay” law signed in 2013 that has been strengthened and augmented by succeeding measures.

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South America

Two transgender women elected to Brazil’s Congress

Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert threatened during campaigns

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From left, Duda Salabert and Erika Hilton (Screen captures via campaign videos)

Editor’s note: International News Editor Michael K. Lavers will be on assignment in Brazil through Oct. 11.

BRASÍLIA, Brazil — Two transgender women on Sunday won seats in the Brazilian Congress.

Voters in São Paulo elected Municipal Councilwoman Erika Hilton, a Black travesti and former sex worker who is a member of the leftist Socialism and Liberty Party. Voters in Minas Gerais state elected Belo Horizonte Municipal Councilwoman Duda Salabert, who is a member of the leftist Democratic Labor Party.

Salabert in a video she posted to her Twitter account noted she received the highest number of votes for any congressional candidate in Minas Gerais’ history. Salabert also highlighted she received death threats during her campaign.

“I am the first trans person elected to the National Congress,” she said. “We won the election, despite the attacks from leftists, attacks from Christian fundamentalists and death threats from the extreme right.”

Hilton also received threats during the campaign.

“Erika and Duda showed true courage in their campaigns for Congress,” said LGBTQ Victory Institute Global Programs Director Alhelí Partida in a press release.

Hilton and Salabert are two of the 324 openly LGBTQ candidates who ran in the presidential, congressional and state legislative and governor elections. Eighteen of them, including Hilton and Salabert, won their respective races.

Fábio Félix, an openly gay member of the Socialism and Liberty Party, who is a member of the Federal District’s Legislative Chamber, won re-election with the highest number of votes of any of the candidates running for seats in the body that governs Brasília, the country’s capital. Eduardo Leite, the openly gay governor of Rio Grande do Sul who is a member of the Social Democratic Party, will face off against Onyx Lorenzoni, a member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s right-wing Liberal Party who is his former chief-of-staff, in an Oct. 30 runoff.

“While we hope their success is a sign of better days, Brazil remains an incredibly tough place to engage as an out leader – where homophobia, transphobia, death threats and worse are common,” said Partida. “In 2018, we lost one of our own, Rio de Janeiro Councilwoman Marielle Franco, assassinated by anti-LGBTQ and anti-women attackers. While her loss continues to be devastating, she has become an icon and the fuel needed to inspire more courageous LGBTQ Brazilians to raise their voices.”

Bolsonaro will face off against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Oct. 30.

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South America

Bolsonaro, Lula to face off in second round of Brazil presidential election

Neither candidate received 50 percent of vote on Sunday

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From left, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Photo of Bolsonaro by Celso Pupo/Bigstock; photo of Lula courtesy Lula campaign)

Editor’s note: International News Editor Michael K. Lavers will be on assignment in Brazil through Oct. 11.

BRASÍLIA, Brazil — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will face off in the second round of the country’s presidential election on Oct. 30 after neither of them received a majority of votes on Sunday.

Da Silva was ahead of Bolsonaro by a 47.9-43.6 percent margin with 97.5 percent of electronic voting machines counted, according to Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Bolsonaro, a former Brazilian Army captain who is a member of the right-wing Liberal Party, represented Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian Congress from 1991 until he took office in 2018. 

Polls ahead of Sunday’s election suggested Da Silva was poised to defeat Bolsonaro in the first round. Bolsonaro’s efforts to discredit Brazil’s electoral system increased concerns that violence could erupt in the country if Bolsonaro did not accept the results. 

The incumbent president has faced sharp criticism because of his rhetoric against LGBTQ and intersex Brazilians, women, people of African and indigenous descent and other groups.

He has encouraged fathers to beat their sons if they think they are gay.

Bolsonaro during a 2019 press conference in the White House Rose Garden stressed his “respect of traditional family values.” Bolsonaro has expressed his opposition to “gender ideology,” supports legislation that would limit LGBTQ-specific curricula in Brazil’s schools and condemned a 2019 Brazilian Supreme Court ruling that criminalized homophobia and transphobia.

A Brazilian Federal Police investigator in August called for prosecutors to charge Bolsonaro with incitement for spreading false information about COVID-19 after he said people who are vaccinated against the virus are at increased risk for AIDS. Activists and HIV/AIDS service providers with whom the Washington Blade spoke in March sharply criticized Bolsonaro’s policies towards people with HIV/AIDS.

Supporters of president jair bolsonaro hold a ‘motociata’ near the brazilian congress in brasÍlia, brazil, on oct. 1, 2022. (video by michael k. lavers)

Da Silva, who was Brazil’s president from 2003-2010, is a member of the country’s leftist Workers’ Party.

Sergio Moro, a judge who Bolsonaro later tapped as his government’s Justice and Public Security Minister, in 2017 sentenced Da Silva to 9 1/2 years in prison after his conviction on money laundering and corruption charges that stemmed from Operation Car Wash. 

The Brazilian Supreme Court in November 2019 ordered Da Silva’s release.

Julian Rodrigues, who was the coordinator of the Workers’ Party’s National Working Group from 2006-2012, noted to the Blade during a previous interview that Da Silva in 2004 created the Health Ministry’s “Brazil without Homophobia” campaign. Rodrigues also highlighted Da Silva created the Culture Ministry’s Diversity Secretariat that, among other things, funded community centers and sought to make police officers and other law enforcement officials more friendly to LGBTQ and intersex people.

The Blade will update this story.

A flag in support of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a bookstore in Brasília, Brazil, on Oct. 1, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
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