There are 195 countries on Planet Earth. No, we’re not going to offer up a geography lesson today…but as a publication deeply committed to human and planetary rights, with all that that entails, Pride seemed like a good month to take a look at the state of LGBTQ+ rights at this moment in time.
While the strides towards equality and legal rights have been profound in many places (compare film and television over the last 40 years alone where being “gay” thankfully is no longer the main story – the characters are merely a part of the everyday intricate fabric of life) in others there are little or no rights at all. And even in the States, the push-back against our rights, especially within the trans community, means we have an enormous fight on our hands (I liken it to our battle to keep our planet safe!).
Back in the bad old closeted days, being gay in the US or the UK often meant losing your job if you were found out, marrying “straight” to keep your position in society, being told you were mentally ill, or thrown in jail for certain “gay” acts. And on and on. If you’re not up to date on the history of Queer, there are a great many places to read, watch listen. But today, we wanted to lay out the state of being Queer worldwide and offer up resources that may help you or someone you know.
Because in approximately 69 countries, roughly 36% of all nation-states, it is a crime to be gay. And it’s not only illegal, in three of the most dangerous countries to be gay in, Nigeria, Mauritania, and Saudi Arabia, same-sex relations are punishable by public whipping, vigilante attacks, chemical castrations life imprisonment, and often death. There are 13 countries, at last count, that have enacted laws to make gay sex a capital crime.
In Tanzania, you can serve 30 years to life in prison. Countless other countries where you can serve multiple years, if not your entire life in jail, to love someone of the same gender.
In some countries, it may “on the books be legal to be gay”, but in actuality there are little or no rights for the LGBTQ+ community and discrimination is rampant. China does not allow gay marriage, and Russia has laws against gay expression. Even in European countries like Italy, Gay couples are not allowed to adopt and don’t have housing protections. Sites like Equaldex publish a complete rundown on governmental edicts and update progress and rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite all of this, we are happy to report that progress is being made: the good news is that a small number of countries, Trinidad and Tobago, the Seychelles and Mazambique and Botswanna, have all scrapped anti-homosexuality laws in recent years as activists and organizations continuously protest against these inhumane and unethical laws.
Last year, Sudan lifted the death penalty and flogging for gay sex. Noor Sultan, the founder of Bedayaa, an LGBT+ group in Egypt and Sudan, said that while there is still much progress to be made, “We see this as a positive change on the path to reform.” One need look no further than Switzerland, where it took indefatigable lobbying and protesting to finally pass laws allowing gay marriage and adoption and protecting LGBTQ+ equal rights.
In the United States there has been a recent surge of LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum. Organizations and resources like Asylum Connect provides verified resource referrals for LGBTQ+ Clients
As we celebrate pride this year, it’s crucial to stay up to date on members of the LGBTQ+ community outside of countries like Canada and the U.S. For U.S.-based resources, check out The Center, and for UK-based and international resources, Stonewall. And finally, think about joining us in this ongoing work by volunteering, donating time and/or money to the organizations that do the hard yards out in the field like the Human Rights Watch.