Despite considerable progress in legal protections, 69 UN member States still criminalise consensual same-sex activity, according to a new report.
International LGBTIQ association ILGA World this week released an update to its State-Sponsored Homophobia report, providing data on laws that affect people on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“As of December 2020, 69 States continue to criminalise same-sex consensual activity,” said Lucas Ramón Mendos, Research Coordinator at ILGA World and lead author of the report.
“The figure dropped by one this year, as Gabon backtracked from the criminalising provision it passed in 2019 – which became the shortest-lived law of its kind in modern history.”
Last week, Bhutan’s parliament approved a bill to decriminalise consensual same-sex relations, which may soon become law.
“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,” said Mendos.
“Courts actively prosecute and sentence them to jail, public flogging, or even death.”
Julia Ehrt, Director of Programmes at ILGA World, said that the COVID-19 crisis has left the world even more unequal for many.
“For our communities, safe spaces dramatically shrunk overnight,” said Ehrt.
“Some governments took advantage of these circumstances and stepped up their efforts to oppress, persecute, scapegoat, and violently discriminate against us.
“In many places where laws were already a cause of inequality, things have only got worse.”
The proliferation of ‘LGBT-free zones’ in Poland, Indonesia seeking to increase ‘conversion’ practices, and a reversal of conversion practice bans in the US state of Florida are only a few of the legal provisions being advanced across the world.
However, positive developments have also occurred this year; the State-Sponsored Homophobia report update also documents how protective legislation has continued to expand.
In July, Sudan repealed the death penalty on consensual gay sex.
Marriage equality is now a reality in 28 UN member States, most recently Costa Rica.
In the last 20 years, the UN member States with workplace anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTIQ people have increased from just 15 to 81.
“This publication is a vital source of information for human rights defenders, States, researchers, media, and the general public on how laws affect people on the grounds of their sexual orientation,” said Ehrt.
“But each section of this report also contains hope for a better tomorrow – a future in which our communities will no longer have to fight to reclaim rights that should have never been taken away from us in the first place.”