Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Criminal Code 1997, which criminalises ‘sodomy’. This provision carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment. Only men are criminalised under this law.

A former Soviet Union state, Turkmenistan gained its independence in 1991. Although Russia and most former Soviet states opted not to criminalise same-sex sexual activity in their new criminal law regimes of the 1990s, Turkmenistan was one of two which chose to continue criminalising after the Soviet Union dissolved (the other being Uzbekistan).

There is some evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, with LGBT people being occasionally subject to arrest, though reports are sporadic. There have been few reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in Turkmenistan in recent years, but that is likely attributable to the authoritarian and repressive system of government in the country.



In August, the police arrested and detained some 30 suspected gay men in the city of Turkmenabat.


The US Department of State report noted that enforcement of the law was “selective”. In May, a famous master of ceremonies was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under the law for sexual relations with a man. Reports suggest around a dozen men were arrested at the same time.


A report by Kyrgyz Indigo and ILGA Europe recited the account of a 25 year-old gay man who was arrested on charges of ‘sodomy’. He was allegedly lured by law enforcement to a ‘trap flat’ through a dating site, where he was immediately detained. The report also documented other arrests, often in order to extort money.

In October, Kasymberdy Garayev, a young gay man who had recently come out, was reported missing after being summoned by the police. His family feared that we was held incommunicado. A few days later, his father confirmed that his son was safe.

In December, a 23-year-old gay man was arrested by the police after he was tested HIV-positive at the AIDS-HIV Center in Ashgabat. The police officers forced him to sign a paper admitting his homosexuality and opened a criminal case against him on the sodomy charge. The young man managed to flee to Russia and then to a third country, fearing he would be sent to prison.


A report by Amnesty International claimed that incidences of arrest were increasing, with gay men being forced to pay large bribes in order to secure their release.

A report by Human Rights Watch recounted the story of an 18-year-old man who was arrested for being gay and subjected to a forced anal ‘examination’. According to the man, around 20 people were detained for same-sex sexual activity along with him. They were tortured in detention, and then all were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under article 135.

Discrimination and Violence


A report by Kyrgyz Indigo and ILGA Europe described the situation for LGBT people in Turkmenistan. It stated that LGBT people are forced to live in secrecy and constant danger. Stigma is high, and familial rejection can occur, with relatives even being complicit in arrests. The report highlighted that Turkmenistan is an extremely closed society, with limits on expression and the press, meaning that accessing information on the situation for LGBT people is difficult.

In October, a 24-year-old doctor came out as gay in an article published online. He highlighted the difficulties posed by the criminalising provision. Having been summoned to a police station, he was not heard from for several weeks, though he did resurface a few days later.


In May, Ashgabat police posted a video of an interrogation of a transgender person for alleged ‘prostitution’. The recording demonstrated the abusive and humiliating treatment of LGBT at the hands of police.


report from Amnesty International, interviewing individuals from the country, suggested that LGBT individuals are often subject to abuse, both from society and from state authorities. One man reported how he was forced to pay a fine of over 10 times the average Turkmenistan monthly salary in order to avoid being sent to prison. Gay men were forced to denounce other gay men, with some being beaten to secure compliance. Others reportedly faced travel restrictions, stopping them from leaving the country.


Related Countries


Uzbekistan criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.


Afghanistan criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death.


Iran criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death.

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