This report offers an analysis of legislation and other regulatory acts and documents, as well as international human rights obligations related to HIV and the rights of MSM and trans* people in nine countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. The EECA region is one of two regions in the world where HIV prevalence and AIDS-related deaths are increasing. Men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans* people in the region are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic and very often lack access to the necessary health services.
In addition to an increased risk of HIV infection, MSM and trans* people in the region are subject to discrimination, stigma, violence, and other human rights abuses on a daily basis. Social stigma, discriminatory legislation, and homo- or transphobic violence are pervasive in countries of the region. Despite these problems, governments have refused to implement greater human rights protections for these vulnerable populations. As a result, MSM and trans* people suffer from high rates of depression, suicide, and HIV and STI infection, and, in many cases, are unable to fulfill their potential and live productive lives.
All of the countries of the region are party to key human rights conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). These conventions impose human rights obligations on states-parties. Human rights norms, such as the prohibition on discrimination, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, the protection of one’s private life, and the prohibition on torture and other forms of degrading treatment play important roles within the context of the rights of LGBT people and people living with HIV (PLWH). The countries analyzed in this report are bound by their international human rights obligations to ensure these rights for all citizens.
National legislation also affects the lives of LGBT people and PLWH in countries of the region. Travel and immigration bans on PLWH or the criminalization of HIV transmission may unfairly discriminate against PLWH. Laws related to antidiscrimination, changing one’s legal gender, or bans on “homosexual propaganda” also have a negative impact on the lives of LGBT people in EECA countries.
In addition, these laws contribute to the difficult climate for community-led advocacy in the region. Civil society organizations and other community groups face significant barriers to implementing successful advocacy initiatives aimed at bringing about legislative change.
This report examines these issues and makes recommendations to governments and civil society organizations, aimed at improving the legislative situation in the region. Individual country reports and factsheets are provided in annexes to this report.
Armenia has made few steps forward with respect to the protection of LGBT rights. There is no recognition of same-sex unions, no antidiscrimination protections for sexual minorities, nor any comprehensive hate crimes legislation. Trans* people face significant barriers when trying to change their legal gender or undergo gender reassignment procedures. LGBT community advocacy remains challenging due to conservative attitudes in government and strong stigma towards sexual minorities in Armenian society.
In Azerbaijan, PLWH and LGBT people are subject to significant levels of discrimination and stigma. Azerbaijan does not recognize any form of same-sex unions, and has not implemented antidiscrimination or anti-hate crimes measures to protect sexual minorities. There are no legal procedures for changing one’s legal gender and gender reassignment procedures are not available in the country. Community-led advocacy initiatives are met with a wide range of barriers.
The country report on Azerbaijan is available here (in Russian):
Belarus fails to guarantee the rights of LGBT people. It has not implemented legislation recognizing same-sex unions, or antidiscrimination and hate crimes measures to protect sexual minorities. A bill prohibiting the dissemination of information “discrediting the institution of the family” to children passed its first reading in October 2015. Policies and procedures relating to gender identity are relatively liberal, as trans* people are not required to undergo surgical interventions in order to change their legal gender.
The country report on Belarus is available here (in Russian):
Georgia was a leader in the region in terms of adopting antidiscrimination and hate crimes protections for LGBT people. However, LGBT activists in the country have criticized the ineffective implementation of this legislation. Trans* people are allowed to change their legal gender. To do so, however, one must undergo related medical procedures, which are often out of the reach of many Georgians. Same-sex unions are not recognized by the government. In addition, PLWH continue to face discrimination in their everyday lives.
In Kazakhstan, LGBT people are subject to significant levels of discrimination and stigma. Kazakhstan does not recognize any form of same-sex unions, and has not implemented antidiscrimination or anti-hate crimes measures to protect sexual minorities. Trans* people must undergo obligatory medical procedures before being able to change their legal gender. A bill was introduced in 2015 that would have banned the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientation” among minors, however, it was overturned by the Constitutional Court shortly after.
Full report on Kazakhstan (by Pak) is available here (in Russian):
The country report on Kazakhstan (by Vinogradov) is available here (in Russian):
Kyrgyzstan fails to guarantee the rights of its LGBT citizens. It has not implemented legislation recognizing same-sex unions, or antidiscrimination and hate crimes measures to protect sexual minorities. In 2014, the Parliament approved a bill that would impose criminal and administrative penalties for the propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations.” Trans* people are allowed to change their legal gender. However, the related procedures are complicated and trans* people are often forced to undergo medical interventions.
The country report on Kyrgyzstan is available here (in Russian):
Moldova has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the field of employment. Thanks to practical enforcement mechanisms, LGBT people in Moldova have been able to avail themselves of antidiscrimination protections. Moldova may be seen as an example of best practices in the implementation of antidiscrimination legislation. Nonetheless, LGBT people and PLWH continue to face stigma and suffer from the conservative attitudes of many people in Moldovan society. Trans* people are authorized to change their legal gender, however, the corresponding procedures are complicated and cost prohibitive.
The country report on Moldova is available here (in Russian):
Russian legislation discriminates against PLWH and LGBT people. In 2013, the State Duma adopted a bill banning the distribution of propaganda promoting “non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors. The bill infringes on the freedoms of expression and assembly of LGBT people, and has served as model for similar bills in neighboring countries. Russian legislation does not protect LGBT people from discrimination or hate crimes. Trans* people face significant obstacles when changing their legal gender. PLWH may be refused entry to the country.
The country report on Russia (by Pisemsky) is available here (in Russian):
The country report on Russia (by Vins) is available here (in Russian):
Ukraine recently prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the field of labor. Nevertheless, the government has not recognized any form of same-sex partnerships, does not protect sexual minorities from hate crimes, and imposes significant hardships on trans* people wishing to change their legal gender. However, as the recent enactment of the antidiscrimination bill demonstrates, the influence of the European Union may push Ukraine to ensure greater protections for LGBT people. The government has indicated that it wishes to legalize same-sex partnerships by 2018.
The country report on Ukraine is available here (in Russian):
The 9 countries analyzed in this report serve as an excellent overview on legislation related to HIV, sexual health rights, and LGBT rights in the wider EECA region. Unfortunately, the legislative environment in these countries fails to provide LGBT people and PLWH with ample protections with respect to human rights and access to health services. Meanwhile, some countries have adopted or are in the process of adopting laws that directly discriminate against these groups of people. As a result, LGBT people and PLWH often face discrimination, violence, stigma, and other rights violations in their daily lives. The hostile legislative and political environment fosters homo- and transphobic attitudes at all level of society in EECA countries. The combination of these factors has resulted in increased rates of depression, suicide, HIV infection, and other social problems in these populations.
At the same time, LGBT and MSM-service organizations are unable to effectively advocate for their interests in many EECA countries. Discriminatory legislation coupled with hostile social environments means that many LGBT and MSM-service organizations lack the necessary capacity, funding, and support to bring about legislative change. The absence of reliable data on populations of LGBT, MSM, and PLWH, as well as a lack of cooperation between civil society organizations also contribute to the low level of successful community advocacy initiatives in the region.