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This briefing covers LGBT+ rights and inclusion in 12 countries across central and southern Asia, including Georgia and Armenia in the West, Central Asian states such as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka in South Asia.

Unless stated, the information in this briefing applies to 2020/21.


We use the acronym LGBT+ in this briefing (except when quoting someone else’s words). This refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The ‘+’ symbol is used to include people who do not identify with typical binary notions of male and female, or who decide to identify themselves using other categories to describe their gender identity or sexuality, such as non-binary or queer. In the countries we focus on, the legislation is largely around same sex sexual activity rather than gender identity.

Legal discrimination

Many states inherited laws criminalising homosexuality from their colonial past when Britain controlled territories in South Asia, or from the Soviet Union in the case of some former Soviet States (such as Georgia). State-sanctioned interpretations of sharia law also inform legal frameworks that criminalise same-sex relations, as in the case in Pakistan and Afghanistan for example.

Some progress has been seen in recent years. A Court case in India in 2018 decriminalised same-sex relations, while laws have been repealed in the Seychelles and in former Soviet territories such as Georgia and Azerbaijan.

LGBT+ rights in Afghanistan under the Taliban

LGBT+ people have long faced discrimination in Afghanistan, and same-sex relations were criminalised in the country prior to the Taliban’s capture of Kabul in August 2021. Since August, the NGO Human Rights Watch has reported that LGBT+ people “face an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats” under the Taliban.

LGBT+ Afghans are considered one of the priority groups for UK relocation and resettlement schemes for Afghan nationals, given their high degree of vulnerability. For more on these schemes, see the Library briefing UK immigration routes for Afghan nationals, CBP9307.  

Activism and NGOs

Restrictions on freedom of association limit LGBT+ activism in many parts of the region.

In Bangladesh, for example, some activists have been threatened by officials and citizens (PDF) when they attempt to register LGBT+ organisations.  In Uzbekistan, legislation prohibits the formation of associations (PDF) that infringe on “the health and morality of the population.” Laws in Turkmenistan also prohibit the establishment of organisations that may encroach on “citizens’ health or morality.”

Freedom of speech is also restricted in parts of the region. In Pakistan, 2016 legislation allows media authorities to block access or remove content on grounds of morality (PDF).

UK Government and global LGBT+ rights  

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has identified 31 priority countries for UK efforts to “advance human rights” globally. These include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Its annual reports on human rights in these countries highlight continuing restrictions on the civic freedoms of groups such as LGBT+ people. The Department says its diplomatic network continues to raise the issue of LGBT+ rights. In 2020, for example, it funded a meeting of multi-faith religious and belief leaders to discuss global discrimination against LGBT+ people.

Successive governments have said that the promotion and protection of the human rights of LGBT+ people internationally is a priority.

The UK Government had planned to host the international conference, Safe to Be Me, in June 2022 to bring together countries, businesses and international civil society organisations to address global LGBT+ inclusion.

However, following the Government’s decision to introduce a ban on conversion therapy for gay or bisexual people but not for transgender people in the 2022 Queen’s Speech, many UK charities withdrew from attending. The Government subsequently announced it would cancel the June 2022 conference.

Further reading

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