Lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men face violent abuse, including rape, in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, both in family settings and from strangers on the street, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report issued on Monday.

The report calls on the Kyrgyz government to acknowledge the problem and protect the victims, and on the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other European institutions to step up their response to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Based on detailed interviews, the 49-page report, “These Everyday Humiliations: Violence Against Lesbians, Bisexual Women, and Transgender Men in Kyrgyzstan,” tells of beatings, forced marriages, and physical and psychological abuse faced by lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men.

“No one should have to confront brutality or danger because of who they are or whom they love,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at HRW. “It is time for the government to protect these communities instead of denying they exist.”

The report notes that the OSCE, which conducts programs in Kyrgyzstan, works to combat hate crimes and identity-based violence throughout Europe. However, the United States and the Holy See have reportedly blocked including sexual orientation in its mandate.

Several people interviewed for the report said they had been raped to punish them for not conforming to gender norms, or to “cure” them of their difference. One lesbian told how, when she was 15, her girlfriend’s brothers raped her brutally, saying: “This is your punishment for being this way and hanging around our sister.”

Another woman told HRW that an acquaintance locked her in a room and allowed several men to rape her. The men promised the acquaintance “that they would help her to ‘cure’ me” of being a lesbian, she said.

Pervasive social prejudice in the country leaves the victims with little hope of government protection, the report says. The police themselves sometimes abuse lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men, claims HRW.

In some cases, officials have actually endorsed hatred and violence. In 2005, a Ministry of Interior official said of lesbians and gay men at a human rights roundtable: “I would also beat them. Let’s say I walk in a park with my son. And there are two guys walking holding each other’s hands. I would beat them up too.”

HRW called on Kyrgyz authorities to improve direct services for lesbians and transgender men; to train state officials in issues of sexual orientation and gender identity; to educate the public about domestic violence and sexual-rights issues, and to create measures for legal identity change to respect and recognise each person’s self-defined gender identity.

HRW also urged the OSCE to address human rights issues, including discrimination and violence against lesbians and transgender men, in its trainings for police and other programs in Kyrgyzstan.

“Programs to stop violence will not work unless they reach everyone who is vulnerable,” Dittrich said. “Europe should not join Kyrgyzstan’s government in turning a blind eye.”

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