Instead of abolishing the existing anti-gay law, the Uzbek government wants to replace it with a new law on "Crimes against family, children and morality".
Since 2016, the new Uzbek President has launched many legal reforms, and Uzbekistan is now undertaking reforms to its criminal justice system. This presents a unique opportunity to finally decriminalise same-sex conduct between men in Uzbekistan, in line with international human rights standards and the country’s Constitution.
However, the draft of the new Criminal Code released for public discussion by the Uzbek Prosecutor General's Office on 22 February 2021, does not remove the provision criminalising consensual same-sex conduct between men. Despite calls from international human rights bodies and civil society, the provision remains in the new version of the Code, moved from Article 120 to Article 154 without changing its substance.
Worryingly, the Article is included in the newly created Chapter V of the Code, entitled: “Crimes against family, children and morality”. A similar "traditional family value" law adopted in Russia led to anti-gay purges in Chechnya a few years ago.
Although the Uzbek Constitution guarantees privacy, equality, and non-discrimination, Uzbekistan is one of only two former Soviet countries that retain legislation criminalising private, consensual same-sex conduct between men. Article 120 of the Criminal Code that is currently in force stipulates that “sodomy”, voluntary sexual intercourse between two male individuals, is punishable by 1 to 3 years of restricted liberty, or by up to three years of imprisonment. Due to the widespread failure to understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity by state and non-state actors in Uzbekistan, this law negatively impacts the entire LGBT community.
As a consequence of criminalising same-sex conduct between men, LGBT people are routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment, persecution, and surveillance by state and non-state actors. Homophobic gangs feel emboldened to attack LGBT people merely due to the existence of Article 120 knowing that the victims will not seek protection from the state.