On 20 March, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) launched the 13th editionof its flagship publication, State-Sponsored Homophobia, authored by Lucas Ramón Mendos.
This publication compiles data on laws that affect people on the basis of their sexual orientation - a fundamental resource for researchers, civil society organisations, governments and the general public. They are a powerful tool in the struggle for a more just and inclusive society. In reading this year's report it is clear that much need to be done to further and protect LGBTI equality and human rights in all corners of the globe to include the United States of America, with Africa and Asia helming the criminalization of LGBTI sexuality.
“As of March 2019, 70 States continue to criminalise same-sex consensual activity. In 44 of these States the law is applied to people regardless of their gender,” Mendos notes. "Landmark advances have taken place in the last two years: India, Trinidad and Tobago, and Angola were the latest to repeal such laws. Hopefully this will help further change in their regions. However, global progress comes with setbacks: in 2017, Chad criminalised consensual same-sex sexual acts, a worrying example of legal regression.”
This release come as ILGA is holding its World Conference in Aotearoa New Zealand, where more than 500 people have gathered together from 100 countries to celebrate ILGA‘s 40th birthday, and the advances made by the global LGBTI movement.
The maps of sexual orientation laws that accompany the State-Sponsored Homophobia have been updated and there is a fresh approach to looking at laws, and their colour scheme has also been altered to make it easier to read for persons with colour-blindness.
“In the past we looked at the continuum of laws from death penalty at one extreme through to marriage equality at the other. This year, the top end of the spectrum is those places with constitutional protect against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. 9 countries’ constitutions explicitly mention sexual orientation as a protected ground from discrimination. This shows how much change is truly happening around the world, with growing protection in all regions, though a simple look at these maps is enough to see how many States are denying rights to our communities, and of how much work still needs to be done,” commented André du Plessis, Executive Director of ILGA.
There are currently 6 UN Member States that impose the death penalty on consensual same-sex sexual acts, and a further five States where such a punishment is technically possible. In 26 other countries the maximum penalty can vary between 10 years to a life imprisonment.
At least 32 UN Member States have put in place provisions that limit people’s freedom of expression – including propaganda laws that prohibit the promotion of ‘homosexuality’ or ‘non-traditional’ sexual relations; 41 States pose barriers to NGOs working on sexual orientation issues to be registered or run regularly – putting human rights defenders in greater danger.
On the other hand, legislation that protects lesbian, gay and bisexual persons (LGBTI) from discrimination and violence has expanded in recent years, even if it is at a slower pace than we hope for.
The number of UN Member States banning ‘conversion’ therapy still stands at three, but there is progress also at the sub-national level where local legislatures have also prohibited such practices. Legal provisions protecting against discrimination in employment are now a reality in 38% of States.
When it comes to protecting and recognising our relationships and families, marriage equality has four more States in recent years, while other 27 guarantee civil partnership recognition.
“These are not just numbers, but laws that actually impact the daily lives of people of diverse sexual orientations around the world,” commented Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, Co-Secretaries General of ILGA. “Positive laws make all the difference: they can contribute to changing public attitudes, and they concretely tell people that they are equally worthy of rights.”
Key figures (as per March 2019)
There are 123 UN member States where consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults are legal
70 UN member States still criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults (68 by explicit provisions of law, 2 de facto)
The death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual acts is imposed in 6 UN member States. In 4 of them (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan) it is applied State-wide; in 2 (Somalia, Nigeria) it is implemented only in specific provinces. There are another 5 States (Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Mauritania) where such penalty remains a possibility
32 States have laws restricting freedom of expression on sexual orientation and gender identity issues
41 States pose barriers to the formation, establishment or registration of sexual orientation-related NGOs
73 States have laws protecting from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
9 States contain constitutional provisions that specify sexual orientation in their discrimination protections
39 States have laws that punish acts of incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation; 42 States impose enhanced criminal penalties for offences motivated by hate towards the victim’s sexual orientation
26 States recognise same-sex marriage; 27 States provide for some partnership recognition
28 States have joint adoption laws, while 30 States allow for same-sex second parent adoption