Police across the country have in various raids seized more than 500 sex workers and a number of men suspected of “homosexual behavior” since June 6, reports Amnesty International.
In one instance in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe police in midnight sweeps arrested a pregnant woman and three men suspected of being gay in besides others allegedly for sex work or other “moral crimes.”
Those arrested were bundled into police vans and several more have reported being beaten by police.
Although Tajikistan decriminalized same-sex relations in 1998, the internal security ministry has openly stated that three men were arrested because they were suspected of “homosexual behavior.”
Various rights groups say police detained around 70 people during the latest raid on June 10. While most were released without being charged 36 hours later, the fate of a 30 who were not released is as yet unknown.
“These midnight raids, disguised as a campaign to ensure public morality, are in truth an exercise in discrimination and ill-treatment,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.
“Reports of police beatings, threats, sexual violence and invasive forced medical procedures suggest the Ministry of Internal Affairs needs to address the abuses allegedly meted out by officers as a matter of urgency,” he added.
Police authorities physically restrained anyone who objected and forced detainees to have blood tests and those suspected of being sex workers to undergo smear tests. Several said the officers had sexually humiliated them but did not give further details.
Amnesty International has received several reports of police in Tajikistan of even raping sex workers they arrested or demanding sex in exchange for their release.
Many of those detained where subjected to forced HIV testing and for sexually transmitted infections.
All those detained were fingerprinted, photographed and filmed.
“Police can’t round people up, hold them for days without access to a lawyer, without warrants or charges, just to impose their own view of public morality,” said Krivosheev.
“When authorities make arrests, they need to follow the basic elements of due process and must take every precaution to treat detainees with dignity and humanity.”
There is a widespread social stigma and discrimination against same-sex relations in Muslim majority Tajikistan.
Even though the country has decriminalized same-sex relations, Grand Mufti Saidmukarram Abduqodirzoda has condemned such relations saying ““It’s every Muslim’s duty not to turn a blind eye on the issue.”