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.”
The COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa can “break through” Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study released on Saturday found, although its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed. The study in Israel compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated people with the disease. It matched age and gender, among other characteristics. The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1 percent of all the COVID-19
RARE ADMISSION: A top Chinese expert was the first to publicly address the efficacy of the nation’s vaccines as it aims to inoculate 40 percent of its population by June China is considering mixing different COVID-19 vaccines to improve the relatively low efficacy of its existing options, a top health expert told a conference in Chengdu on Saturday. Authorities have to “consider ways to solve the issue that efficacy rates of existing vaccines are not high,” Chinese media outlet The Paper reported, citing Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Gao Fu (高福). His comments mark the first time a top Chinese expert has publicly alluded to the relatively low efficacy of the country’s vaccines, as China forges ahead in its mass vaccination campaign and exports its jabs around the world. China
The Australian government yesterday said that it had decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine and identified a second case of a rare blood clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca shot. The Australian government had been in talks with the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant, which had asked the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration for provisional registration. However, Australian Minister of Health Greg Hunt ruled out a J&J contract, because its vaccine was similar to the AstraZeneca product, which Australia had already contracted for 53.8 million doses. Hunt said the government was following the advice of Australia’s scientific and technical advisory
The Indonesian government has said it is satisfied with the effectiveness of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine it has been using, after China’s top disease control official said that current vaccines offer low protection against the novel coronavirus. Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s COVID-19 vaccine program, on Monday said the WHO had found that the Chinese vaccines had met requirements by being more than 50 percent effective. Clinical trials in Indonesia for the vaccine from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac showed that it was 65 percent effective, she said. “It means ... the ability to form antibodies in our bodies is still very