A well-known actor has been sentenced to two years in prison in Turkmenistan for the simple crime of being gay.
The actor – who has not been publicly named – was first arrested in March of this year along with his partner and around a dozen other men on suspicion of homosexuality.
Gay sex is illegal in the central Asian country and anti-LGBT+ views are pervasive, meaning queer people often hide their identities or flee the country.
Now, he has been convicted and sentenced to two years in prison because of his sexuality, Turkmen News reports.
Turkmenistan slammed by LGBT+ rights groups over heinous laws.
The actor and the other arrested men were reportedly convicted on the basis of signed confessions earlier this month.
Under Turkmenistan law, gay sex is punished with a two year prison sentence, while a repeat offence is met with five to ten years in jail.
Last month, it was reported that some of the men were released following their initial arrest after they bribed police.
LGBT+ rights organisation the Human Rights Watch slammed Turkmenistan authorities for handing jail sentences to the men.
The government should immediately dismiss all charges against the men convicted under these laws and release them.
“In 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Committee flagged criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct as ‘unjustifiable’ and urged the Turkmen government to repeal it,” the organisation said, according to the Star Observer.
“Turkmenistan prides itself on its good standing in the United Nations. The government should immediately dismiss all charges against the men convicted under these laws and release them.
“This blatantly discriminatory law, that violates Turkmenistan’s international human rights obligations, enables police to subject gay and bisexual men to harassment, including with the purpose of extortion, humiliation, and abuse.”
“Turkmenistan should also repeal article 135 of the criminal code and protect people from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
LGBT+ people in Turkmenistan face fear and persecution in their everyday lives.
Life in Turkmenistan can be extremely difficult for members of the LGBT+ community. Gay and bisexual men can face up to two years in prison for daring to love, and society is largely unaccepting of queer identities.
Last month, a gay man was forced to flee the country and claim asylum in a European country after he was arrested and beaten by police because he has HIV.
Speaking anonymously to RadioFreeEurope at the time, he said: “First they questioned me. Then began to beat me badly. They told me: ‘We know where you got HIV. You’re gay.’ I told them that it’s not true. But they kept beating me’”.
Last year, another gay man went missing in the country shortly after he claimed in a video message that he was afraid of being “forcibly taken away”.