COPENHAGEN, 16 November 2017 – On the occasion of the International Day for Tolerance and following a series of reported attacks on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in recent months – by both state and private actors in several OSCE countries – the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee Chair Ignacio Sanchez Amor (MP, Spain) today called for urgent action to protect and promote LGBT rights.

“Anti-gay and anti-trans bigotry is far too prevalent across the OSCE region, but recent weeks and months have seen a shocking series of events and attacks against LGBT communities particularly in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan,” said Sanchez Amor, who serves as the Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.

“Equality and access to justice should not depend on who you love,” Sanchez Amor said, calling on parliamentarians across the OSCE region to publicly speak out in favour of the rights of LGBT people and against bigotry.

On 13 October a group of United Nations human rights experts urged action following a series of police raids launched in Azerbaijan that led to the arrest and detention of more than 80 people “perceived to be gay, transgender or whom the authorities have alleged are involved in sex work.” The UN experts said that those detained allegedly suffered beatings and electric shocks as well as humiliation and forced shaving, partly to coerce them to incriminate themselves or to disclose the names of acquaintances.

Last month an LGBT club in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – reportedly the only remaining one in the city – was forced to shut down when the landlord asked the renters to leave. Following efforts to ban “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” three years ago, the LGBT community in Kyrgyzstan reports increasing acts of homophobia. Sanchez Amor called on his parliamentary colleagues in Kyrgyzstan to reject draft legislation aiming to ban “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.”

Also last month, an official newspaper in Tajikistan reported on the development of a register to officially list gay and lesbian citizens. The list was apparently compiled following research into the LGBT community, with the aim of protecting those listed and preventing “the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.”

Sanchez Amor applauded the courage of Maxim Lapunov, a Russian man who in mid-October publicly called for a government investigation into what has been called Chechnya’s “gay purge” earlier this year. Numerous people have reported anonymously on beatings and torture they suffered as a result of the homophobic actions, but fear to speak out publicly due to fear of retribution. Lapunov said he was held for 12 days in March and beaten by Chechen security forces, who demanded that he give the names of his sexual partners.

“Intimidation, humiliation, hate crimes and torture have no place in our societies, and I call on all OSCE governments to protect and promote the rights of LGBT individuals and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these recent acts of intolerance,” continued Sanchez Amor. He noted that today’s observance of International Day for Tolerance is an important reminder of the need for promoting mutual respect and understanding among all peoples.

In the OSCE PA’s Minsk Declaration of July this year, parliamentarians expressed concern over “flagrant manifestations of intolerance” of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, and called on OSCE countries to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. OSCE PA Members specifically called for “parliaments of all OSCE participating States to introduce the necessary legislation to fully ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of LGBT individuals.”