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Multilateral development banks pressured to urge Uzbekistan to stop anti-LGBTQ crackdown

Anvar Latipov met with bank representatives in D.C.

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Anvar Latipov, an LGBTQ activist from Uzbekistan, right, meets with World Bank Group Executive Director Koen Davidse in D.C. on April 11, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Chad Dobson)

A gay man from Uzbekistan has called for the World Bank Group and other multilateral development banks to pressure his homeland’s government to stop its persecution of LGBTQ and intersex people.

Anvar Latipov in a letter he sent to World Bank Group President David Malpass this month notes the bank has $4.76 billion “in 27 active projects in Uzbekistan.” The letter also highlights that more than 33,000 people have signed an AllOut petition “condemning the criminalization, torture and blackmail of LGBTQ+ people in Uzbekistan and demanding that respect for human rights be a prerequisite for the international community’s support for this government.”

“Human rights are the foundation for social and economic inclusion, which we know to be central to the development goals at the heart of the World Bank’s work,” wrote Latipov. “Considering the bank’s commitments to consultation, vulnerable groups and nondiscrimination, how will the World Bank ensure the meaningful participation and protection of LGBTQ+ people in its operations in Uzbekistan? What will the World Bank do to address the widespread violation of human rights in Uzbekistan?”

Latipov has also sent similar letters to Asian Development Bank President Masatsugu Asakawa, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development President Odile Renaud-Basso and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

• The ADB has $4.64 billion in 35 active projects in Uzbekistan

• The EBRD has $2.4 billion in 69 active projects in Uzbekistan

• Uzbekistan has more than $370 million “in outstanding purchases and loans” to the IMF

Latipov last week met with World Bank Group Executive Koen Davidse in D.C. during the World Bank Group/IMF spring meetings. He also sat down with ADB Managing Director Woochong Um, Renaud-Basso and ADB U.S. Director Chantale Wong, who is the first openly lesbian American ambassador.

Latipov was among those who spoke on a panel that Adriana Kugler, the U.S. executive director of the World Bank Group, moderated.

Three LGBTQ and intersex rights activists from Kosovo, North Macedonia and Albania — Re-course Co-Director Nezir Sinani, Coalitions Margins Executive Director Irena Cvetkovic and ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans Executive Director Amarildo Fecanji — also met with Davidse. Sinani, Cvetkovic and Fecanji were also with Latipov when he spoke exclusively with the Washington Blade on April 12.

Latipov said the banks “can create change” if “they unite forces,” but he conceded any effort to challenge the Uzbek government over its LGBTQ and intersex rights record will prove difficult.

“If it is done through ways of silent diplomacy there may be a change,” he said.

The Uzbek government previously kicked the EBRD kicked out of Uzbekistan it criticized the country’s human rights record. Latipov referenced this situation when he spoke with the Blade.

“There is this thin line they have to talk to get this, but I think by waiting and not doing anything is also not an option,” he said. “People are suffering.”

The EBRD’s 2023 Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors will take place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan from May 16-17. May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

Living in US has ‘been a blessing’

Latipov, 36, was born in Samarkand.

He moved to Moscow in 2004 and graduated from the Moscow International Institute for Humanities and Linguistics in 2011.

Latipov in 2014 asked for asylum in the U.S. based on the persecution he said he suffered in Uzbekistan because of his sexual orientation. He won asylum in 2017 and now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“It’s been a blessing,” Latipov told the Blade. “[I’m] very, very grateful for the opportunities I have been given in the United States to be who I am.”

Uzbekistan is among the more than 60 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The State Department’s 2022 human rights report notes “at least four cases” of authorities forcing men to undergo so-called anal exams between 2017-2020. Latipov noted to the Blade that a group of vigilantes broadcast online a video of a man they forced to sit on a bottle.

The report cites activists who said “members of the LGBTQI+ community in Tashkent (the Uzbek capital) were being harassed by both local authorities and private citizens and were on ‘red alert,’ and were seeking to avoid going out in public” after a group of men attacked blogger Miraziz Bazarov in 2022. Latipov told the Blade that transgender Uzbeks and people with HIV/AIDS face additional discrimination and persecution.

“There is no way you can lead a life because everyone’s in everyone’s business,” he said. “It’s like being crushed by both sides, by laws on one hand and on another hand by society and family values.”

The U.N. World Tourism Organization has chosen Samarkand as its 2023 World Tourism Capital. 

The Blade has reached out to the World Bank Group for comment for this story.

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Second Japanese court rules same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

Judge issued ruling in Nagoya

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The Nagoya District Court as the same-sex marriage ruling is issued on May 30, 2023. (Screenshot from NHK, Japan Public Broadcasting Corporation)

In a ruling issued Tuesday, the Nagoya District Court became the second major higher court in the country to rule that the lack of legal recognition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Presiding Judge Osamu Nishimura said more people have become supportive of recognizing same-sex marriage, and the reasoning behind excluding same-sex couples from the legal marriage system is becoming “shaky,” resulting in a situation that is “difficult to ignore,” the Kyodo News agency reported.

Kyodo also noted the court pointed out that the public remains divided over the issue, and it was only in 2015 that a system to issue certificates recognizing same-sex couples as being in “relationships equivalent to marriage” was introduced by local governments in Japan for the first time.

In March 2021 the Sapporo District Court issued its ruling that the local in Sapporo government’s actions violated two provisions of the Japanese Constitution: Article 14 that ensures the right to equal treatment and Article 24, which does not expressly deny the right of marriage to same-sex couples.

In Tuesday’s ruling, Nishimura echoed the Sapporo decision saying that a failure to recognize same-sex marriage violates Article 14 of the constitution, which stipulates that all people are equal, and Article 24, which stipulates that “laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.”

The two rulings are at odds with opinions issued by other high courts across Japan. Public Media Broadcaster NHK reported that in June 2022 the Osaka District Court ruled that the ban does not violate the constitution. The judge said Article 24 stipulates that marriage shall be based on the mutual consent of parties from both sexes.

The Tokyo District Court also ruled the ban constitutional in November that year. At the same time, the judge said not providing legal protections for same-sex families represents an “unconstitutional state.”

With this second ruling, pressure is building on the Japanese Diet (Parliament) to legalize same-sex unions.

The case, brought by two male residents in a relationship from Aichi Prefecture, were represented by attorney Yoko Mizushima who told reporters: “This ruling has rescued us from the hurt of last year’s ruling that said there was nothing wrong with the ban, and the hurt of what the government keeps saying,” referring to the June 2022, Osaka District Court ruling last year that the ban was not unconstitutional.

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Activist harassed during European development bank meeting in Uzbekistan

Authorities confiscated Nezir Sinani’s Pride tote bags

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Nezir Sinani, left, an LGBTQ and intersex rights activist from Kosovo, holds a Pride tote bag while attending European Bank for Reconstruction and Development meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. (Photo courtesy of Caspar Veldkamp/Twitter)

Uzbek authorities last week harassed an LGBTQ and intersex rights activist while he was attending a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development meeting that took place in the Central Asian country.

Nezir Sinani, who is from Kosovo, is the co-director of Re-course, which is based in the Netherlands. 

He said Uzbek police on May 17 “started harassing and intimidating me, stopping me from entering the meeting venue (in Samarkand) and confiscating meeting materials.”

“This included the Uzbek police calling the (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) security officer asking for my info details,” said Sinani in a tweet.

May 17 was the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, which marks the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990. Uzbekistan is among the more than 60 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Caspar Veldkamp, an EBRD board member from the Netherlands, on May 17 posted a picture of him with Sinani and two other activists holding Pride tote bags. 

Sinani once he left Uzbekistan sent the Washington Blade a series of pictures that show security officials interrogating him outside the meeting. 

He is holding Pride-themed tote bags in two of the pictures. Sinani said he and the other activists used them “to keep meeting files to distribute to EBRD counterparts we met.”

“Tote bags were not forbidden in the venue, but were still confiscated only because they were Pride-themed,” he told the Blade.

Uzbek authorities on May 17, 2023, confiscated Nezir Sinani‘s Pride tote bags before they allowed him to attend a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. (Photos courtesy of Nezir Sitani)

Veldkamp in an email to the Blade said he has “been in touch with” Sinani and “shared his information with the EBRD’s office of the secretary general, which gathers information regarding several incidents, including a similar one regarding my own staff.”

“They will follow up with the Uzbek authorities,” said Veldkamp.

Veldkamp told the Blade that Uzbek authorities have yet to respond.

The EBRD’s 32nd annual Meeting and Business Forum took place in Samarkand from May 16-19.

The State Department’s 2022 human rights report notes “at least four cases” of authorities forcing men to undergo so-called anal exams between 2017-2020. Anvar Latipov, a gay man from Uzbekistan who the U.S. has granted asylum, last month told the Blade during an exclusive interview in D.C. that a group of vigilantes broadcast online a video of a man they forced to sit on a bottle.

‘Criminalization and discrimination is completely unacceptable’

The State Department report cites other activists who said “members of the LGBTQI+ community in Tashkent (the Uzbek capital) were being harassed by both local authorities and private citizens and were on ‘red alert,’ and were seeking to avoid going out in public” after a group of men attacked blogger Miraziz Bazarov in 2022. Latipov told the Blade that transgender Uzbeks and people with HIV/AIDS face additional discrimination and persecution.

The Uzbek government previously kicked the EBRD kicked out of Uzbekistan after it criticized the country’s human rights record. Latipov noted to the Blade the EBRD now has $2.4 billion in 69 active projects in the country.

Latipov spoke with the Blade while he was in D.C. to lobby the World Bank Group and other multilateral development banks to pressure the Uzbek government to stop its persecution of LGBTQ and intersex people. Sinani and two other activists — Irena Cvetkovic, executive director of Coalitions Margins in North Macedonia, and Amarildo Fecanji, the Albania-based executive director of ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans — were with Latipov.

“In Samarkand I attended the annual meetings of the EBRD with the aim of raising awareness on the brutal policies of Uzbekistan toward the LGBTI community,” Sinani told the Blade in a lengthy statement. “EBRD has a role to play to include the LGBTI community in its development projects to be able to fully deliver on its mandate.”

Sinani said he met with EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso, EBRD board members and management “as part of my engagement there.”

“The Uzbek police stopped me from entering the meeting venue following a speech I held at the main meeting of EBRD board of directors with the civil society representatives,” Sinani told the Blade. “The police confiscated tote bags we used to handout reading marerials to the counterparts we met. Materials raised awareness on the brutal crackdown of Uzbek government on the LGBTI community in the country.”

“The behavior of the Uzbek police is a reflection of the situation in the country toward the LGBTI community. In this case they harrased and intimated me for the sole reason of raising awareness on the situation on the ground. With the LGBTI community in the country they go harsh, way harsh. They imprison them after doctors establish their sexual orientation via anal examinations, which WHO regards as a form of torture,” he said. “Such criminalization and discrimination is completely unacceptable and EBRD, alone the other international finance institutions, need to condemn and demand from the Uzbek government to repeal the law that enables them to hunt down the LGBTI community.”

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Taiwan to allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt children

Island is only Asian jurisdiction with marriage equality

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Taipei, Taiwan (Photo by Richie Chan/Bigstock)

A week before the fourth anniversary of Taiwan granting the legal right to same-sex couples to marry on May 24, 2019, the Parliament of the island republic passed an amendment allowing same-sex couples to jointly adopt children.

The rights were an amendment to the same-sex marriage bill that passed its third reading in the Legislative Yuan without objection, AFP/France 24 reported.

The amendment establishes that the process for joint adoption is now procedurally identical for same-sex couples as it is for heterosexual couples under Taiwan’s civil code.

Hung Sun-han, a Democratic Progressive Party legislator, joyfully announced the news on Twitter.

Earlier this year, the government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen lifted restrictions on transnational same-sex marriage, allowing the island’s LGBTQ residents to marry partners from jurisdictions such as Japan or Hong Kong that have yet to legalize same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriages between Taiwanese residents and those from mainland China are still prohibited. Taiwan remains the only jurisdiction in Asia to have legalized same-sex marriage.

“After four years of hard work, today the Parliament finally passed the (bill for) adoption without blood relationship by same-sex couples,” the advocacy group Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights said in a statement.

The amendment comes after a family court in southern Kaohsiung City last year ruled in favour of a married gay man seeking to share parenthood of his husband’s adoptive child — the first verdict of its kind, AFP/France 24 reported.

Fan Yun, another Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker, draped in a rainbow flag, spoke to local media.

“The amendment not only ensures the protection of children’s rights but also meets their best interest,” said Fan. “In the future, spouses and parents, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, can have full legal protection.”

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