Tajikistan’s Forced STI Registry Threatens LGBT Rights

Government officials in Tajikistan are reportedly compiling lists of lesbian and gay citizens in what they claim to be a public health initiative. But critics worry that this act could be a precursor to forced medical examination and intimidation. 

The Zakonnost, the state prosecutor’s newspaper, revealed that the Soviet Republic of Tajikstan has already “identified 319 gay men and 48 lesbians but no transgender people” according to the Guardian. “It said the list was drawn up following two state ‘operations’ last year entitled ‘Morality’ and ‘Purge,’ without giving further details.”

At this time, it’s unclear what “checks” will be made and how records of sexuality will be handled, but the government states that the initative will be part of a coordinated effort to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Tajikistan, with its Soviet-era ban struck down in 1998. However, the Muslim majority country has retained staunchly conservative attitudes toward sex and sexual relationships. LGBT people continue to be a disfavored class, with frequent raids on nightclubs and other venues popular with the community. 

One man has spoken out about the treatment he received during what he suspects was a forced registration last year.

Radio Free Europe notes:

[Firuz, a 30-year-old gay man in Dushanbe] thinks he was added to the registry in 2016 when he was detained during a police raid on a nightclub in the Tajik capital.

He says he was interrogated at a police station, asked about his sexual preferences and the names of his sexual partners. Police also forced him to take a blood test to determine whether he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, he says.

Contextualizing the registry

The forced registration and STI testing may seem alarming in its own right, but when put in context of the current political situation in Tajikistan, it’s even more concerning.  

In recent years, Tajikistan has appeared to move toward an even more authoritarian rule, with President Emomali Rahmon going so far as to order a commission on appropriate dress codes for men and women, among other deeply intrusive regulations.

Throughout 2015 and 2016, the government pursued every legal — and, at times, illegal — avenue available  in order to suppress political dissent — particularly by the Islamic Renaissance Party, its main opposition. Reports claim that Tajik authorities have pressured and detained the relatives of IRPT members as retaliation for speaking out about potential human rights abuses. 

Human Rights Watch notes:

The Tajik government has imprisoned more than 150 activists on politically motivated charges since the middle of 2015. Most are lawyers, perceived critics, and members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT)—the country’s largest opposition party before the government banned it in September 2015. It also continued to seek the extradition of peaceful opposition activists living abroad, mainly those from the opposition movement Group 24.

Police violence against the gay community remains a particular worry in Tajikistan, while religious clerics have incited hatred against the LGBT community.

As such, the government’s claim that registration of LGBT people is simply a means of helping monitor health and infectious disease cannot be underestimated as a potential rights violation. At the very least, the effort could be open to abuse from discriminatory forces within the government.

This news comes just days after the European Union and Tajikistan held their annual Human Rights Dialogue. Critics labelled the meeting underwhelming, claiming that while talk of open dialogue was plentiful, few concrete actions were decided.

Clearly, for LGBT individuals and the wider population of Tajikistan, action is needed to prevent an escalating situation from becoming any worse. 

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

36 comments

Mike R
Mike R7 days ago

Thanks

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Veronica Danie
Veronica D10 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica D10 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica D10 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Ingrid H
Ingrid H13 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I24 days ago

As if the LGBT people need any more hurdles to jump! Unacceptable! Thanks for posting.

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Jeramie D
Jeramie D26 days ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn Adams29 days ago

Disgusting

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Freya H
Freya H29 days ago

Sue H, thanks for the note. Here is the proper link for the petition.

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ERIKA S
ERIKA Sabout a month ago

noted

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