Gay Actor Sent To Prison In Turkmenistan

Gay Actor Sent To Prison In Turkmenistan
Image: President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow

A well known Turkmenistani gay actor, and several others, have been sentenced by a local court to two years imprisonment after their conviction on charges of sodomy.

The well known actor, who has not been identified, was arrested along with his partner and others in March 2020. A court in the country’s capital Ashgabat sentenced the actor and others (the number of those arrested has not been revealed) on the basis of signed confessions on May 7, reported earlier this week.

“In 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Committee flagged criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct as “unjustifiable” and urged the Turkmen government to repeal it. Turkmenistan prides itself on its good standing in the United Nations. The government should immediately dismiss all charges against the men convicted under these laws and release them,” said Human Rights Watch.

Turkmenistan is one of 69 countries in the world, and one of the two countries in Central Asia (the other being Uzbekistan), that criminalises consensual same sex relations, according to HRW. According to Article 135 of the Criminal Code, the offence of sodomy is punished with a jail term of two years and a repeat offence invites a 5 to 10 years prison term.

 “This blatantly discriminatory law, that violates Turkmenistan’s international human rights obligations, enables police to subject gay and bisexual men to harassment, including with the purpose of extortion, humiliation, and abuse,” said HRW.

HRW said that in 2013 it had documented a case where medical staff had conducted an illegal anal examination on a 18-year-old youth who was accused of sodomy. In 2019, a young doctor Kasymbery Garayev became the first gay man to publicly come out in interviews to the media. He then disappeared which led to rights organisations taking up his case. Following the international outcry he reappeared in public and said that his coming out was a “mistake.”

In April 2020, a 23-year-old gay man had to flee his home in Turkmenistan and seek asylum in Europe after the police arrested him and assaulted him for being gay and HIV positive.

According to media reports, many of those arrested in April paid bribes or had to testify against others as witnesses in the case. The actor, who is the son of a diplomat, was unable to secure his freedom, reports said.

“Turkmenistan should also repeal article 135 of the criminal code and protect people from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation,” HRW said.

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