February 24, 2021

one in three countries criminally punish homosexual relations, eleven with death


It is not the same to be homosexual in one corner of the world than in another. In some countries, sexual acts with people of the same sex can be punishable by years in prison and even death, in others it is legal for two men or two women to marry or adopt. Advances and setbacks, more or less profound, paint the global panorama of homophobia that the International Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans and Intersex (ILGA), the largest in the world, has updated this Tuesday. Up to 69 countries criminalize homosexuality in their laws, according to their latest 2020 State Homophobia report. Although it is one less than in the previous edition, it is 35% of the total. In the majority, 124, it is legal; and in 28 there are laws that allow equal marriage, along with 34 others with some type of civil union.

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Gabon is the only country that in a year has been removed from the list of those who criminally punish relations between people of the same sex, and Bhutan may be about to do so, highlights the organization. Of the total of 69, there are two, Egypt and Iraq, that do not have legal provisions to pursue them, but there is “a de facto criminalization” verified on the ground, according to ILGA. Furthermore, the authors have “full legal certainty” that in six, a figure that has not changed with respect to the previous study, the punishment is the death penalty; among them, Saudi Arabia or Yemen. And there are five others, such as Afghanistan or Qatar, in which “certain sources” indicate it.



The federation has analyzed the legislation of the UN member countries and some non-independent territories to verify how, although very slowly, the states that criminalize homosexuality are decreasing. However, where it still occurs, explains lawyer Lucas Ramón Mendos, lead author of the study, “people can be reported and detained at any time, even under suspicion. The courts process them and sentence them to prison, flogging in public. or even death. ” If we analyze it in detail, 30 countries punish homosexual people with up to 8 years in prison, while in another 27 it goes from ten years to life imprisonment. Most in Africa, some in Asia and several in the Eastern Caribbean.

42 countries without LGTBI freedom of expression

However, the organization points out that the legislation falls short of interpreting what happens to homosexuality in each country and points to the need for a broader analysis that takes into account “multiple layers of reality” and takes into account local contexts. As an example, the list of places that criminalize it only includes those that punish relationships in the private sphere. The general situation, in addition, has worsened this 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has “drastically” reduced safe spaces for the LGTBI community and has been used by some governments “to oppress, persecute, scapegoat and discriminate against us. In many places where laws were already a cause of inequality, things have gotten worse, “warns ILGA.

The so-called “LGTBI free zones” proliferated in Poland, Indonesia tried to promote so-called “conversion therapies”, which seek to modify the sexual orientation of homosexual people with invasive and serious methods, and a court repealed two laws in South Florida that prohibited their performance. On the other hand, Russia introduced into the Constitution the regulation of marriage “as a union of a man and a woman” and last November the Hungarian Government presented a draft amendment that, if approved, “would have the legal effect of prohibiting adoption by same-sex couples, “according to the report.

Along with this, 42 member states of the United Nations, 21%, have laws in force that restrict freedom of expression with regard to LGTBI content. And they do it through various techniques. From the inclusion of crimes “against morals and religion”, to censorship in the media and films or the prohibition of “homosexual propaganda”. Beyond specific legislation, the ILGA warns, these freedoms can be curtailed “as a result of repressive government policies.” In addition, in 52 countries around the world there are specific restrictions that prevent LGTBI NGOs not only from developing their work, but also from establishing themselves as legal entities.

Costa Rica, the last country to approve the marriage

But 2020 has also been a year of progress, the study emphasizes. The list of countries in which marriage between two men or two women is allowed has increased by two since the previous review, the last one Costa Rica. It thus joins a repertoire in which others such as Spain, Belgium, Argentina or Canada are present. In addition, 34 member states of the UN provide some type of legal recognition for same-sex couples after Monaco and Montenegro voted in favor in the last 12 months.

The countries that have some type of protection and laws against LGTBIphobic discrimination have also expanded. If in the previous update of the map, there were 142, now there are 156. One group of them criminalize incitement to hatred, violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is the case of Angola, Bolivia and the majority of Europeans. Others have enacted laws that explicitly protect gay people at work and others categorized by the ILGA under the label of “broad protection”, have legal instruments against discrimination in at least three areas (health, education, housing and supply of goods or services). In addition, two more countries than in 2019, up to a total of eleven, contemplate in their Constitution the term “sexual orientation” in their equality clauses, including South Africa, the only one on the African continent.

However, ILGA points out that sometimes there is a kind of “legal collision” and there is not always a path towards linear equality, in which the last link is constitutional protection. A prominent case may be that of Ecuador, which belongs to the latter group, but at the same time prevents adoption for same-sex couples. And the reality is that one thing is what happens on paper and another in practice, where homophobia exists despite the legal prohibition. As an example, recent survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), where almost half of LGTBI people revealed having suffered discrimination in the last year. That is in the countries that have the broadest laws on the matter.

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