Despite significant progress on gay rights around the world, dozens of countries still criminalize consensual same-sex activity, including six where being gay is punishable by death, campaigners said yesterday.
In a fresh report, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) found “considerable progress” in legal protections for LGBTI people worldwide.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created significant additional challenges for LGBTI and other minority communities, “positive developments have taken place,” the organization said.
However, while the trend is toward acceptance, 69 UN member states continue to criminalize consensual sex between people of the same gender, the report found.
That is one fewer than last year, after Gabon backtracked from a law enacted that year — “the shortest-lived law of its kind in modern history,” ILGA research coordinator and lead author of the report Lucas Ramon Mendos said in a statement.
More urgently than laws on the books, ILGA verified that 34 countries — more than half of those with criminalizing laws — have enforced them in the past five years.
The report said the real number could be “much higher.”
“Wherever such provisions are in the books, people may get reported and arrested at any time even just under the suspicion of having sex with someone of the same gender,” Mendos said.
“Courts actively prosecute and sentence them to jail, public flogging, or even death,” he said.
In six UN member states, the death penalty is the legally prescribed punishment for consensual homosexual sex: Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as well as across 12 northern states of Nigeria.
The report said sources indicated that the death penalty could potentially be used in such cases in five other countries — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates — although there was less legal certainty.
Another 42 countries have erected legal barriers to freedom of expression and sexual orientation and gender identity issues, while 51 have legal barriers to setting up non-governmental organizations that work on LGBTI issues.
ILGA’s head of programs Julia Ehrt voiced concern that some governments had taken advantage of the pandemic to step up efforts to “oppress, persecute, scapegoat and violently discriminate against us.”
The organization also voiced concern over the proliferation of so-called “LGBT-free zones” in places like Poland and Indonesia, and renewed support for “conversion therapies.”
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