Updated July 9, 2015
75+ (really more like 79 or 81) countries with anti-homosexuality laws
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA, lists 75 countries with criminal laws against sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people (LGBTIs), but that’s an understatement.
The death penalty can be imposed for same-sex intimacy in eight of them.
This blog’s similar 79-country list is below, including links to this blog’s coverage of each country.
The difference between the two lists is that ILGA mentions but does not include four political entities that are on this blog’s list:
- Indonesia, where two large provinces outlaw homosexual acts; and
- Three political entities that have anti-LGBT laws but that aren’t accepted as countries by the international community — the Cook Islands, a self-governing country whose residents all have citizenship in New Zealand; Gaza/Palestine; and the territory of Syria and Iraq that is controlled by Daesh/ISIS/ISIL troops.
This blog’s total would be 81 countries if it were to include Russia and Lithuania, two countries that do not have laws against homosexual acts but instead have repressive laws against “propaganda of homosexuality.” Libya and Nigeria have similar anti-propaganda laws, but also prohibit same-sex relations, so they are already on the list.
Back in 2012, based on a separate, nearly complete count, St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation cited a total of 76 countries. That list was used in that year’s Spirit of 76 Worldwide program aimed at repealing those laws. It also inspired the name of this blog — “Erasing 76 Crimes.”
ILGA lists eight nations that provide for the death penalty for same-sex intimacy, “but only five (Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) actually implement it. But a sixth State, Iraq, although not in the civil code clearly has judges and militias throughout the country that issue the death sentence for same-sex sexual behaviours. Further, some provinces in Nigeria and Somalia officially implement the death penalty. We are also aware that in the Daesh (ISIS/ISIL)-held areas the death penalty is implemented (although a non-State actor, we list it here). Brunei Darussalam is due to activate the death penalty for same sex sexual acts in 2016, but it seems likely that like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Qatar although it is on the statute, it will not be implemented.”
These are some of the recent changes in the list:
- The tiny nations of Palau in the western Pacific Ocean and São Tomé and Príncipe, in the Atlantic Ocean off the shores of central Africa, recently decriminalized homosexuality and were dropped from this list in 2014.
Mozambique, on the southeastern coast of Africa, with a population of 24 million, adopted a new Penal Code in the second half of 2014 and was dropped from this list in early 2015.
- Lesotho also was dropped from the list after adopting a new Penal Code, which apparently eliminated the nation’s former common-law crime of sodomy.
- Iraq was added to the list, although it does not have a civil law against same-sex relations. But in practice Iraq defers to Sharia judges who, as ILGA notes, “continue to order executions of men and women for same-sex sexual behaviour.”
- Chad was briefly added to the list — by mistake — because of a proposed new Penal Code that would provide for 15 to 20 years in prison and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs (US $86 to $860) “for anyone who has sex with persons of the same sex.” Chad was removed from the list after ILGA realized that the proposed change had been approved in 2014 by Chad’s cabinet, but not by the president.
- Daesh (or ISIS / ISIL) was added to the list because it publicizes its executions of LGBTI people in the the areas of northern Iraq and northern Syria held by its troops. ILGA states that “the Nusr [‘Victory’ in Arabic] website, which claims to be the website of the Islamic caliphate, has a section on Legal Jurisprudence (evidence-based rules and the penal code). One of the pages under this section is dedicated to “punishment for sodomy”, which states: “the religiously-sanctioned penalty for sodomy is death, whether it is consensual or not. Those who are proven to have committed sodomy, whether sodomizer or sodomized, should be killed…”.
Here is this blog’s list of 79 countries and independent political entities with anti-homosexuality laws, with links to the blog’s coverage of them:
16 Malawi (enforcement of law suspended)
23 Seychelles. Seychelles does not prosecute anyone under their anti-sodomy law, has promised to repeal it, but has not yet done so. A same-sex wedding was conducted in Seychelles on June 13, 2015, on British territory (the British high commissioner’s residence). Seychelles laws currently have no provision for marriage equality.
24 Sierra Leone
26 South Sudan
Asia, including the Middle East
39 Daesh (or ISIS / ISIL)
44 Lebanon (law ruled invalid in one court)
50 Palestine/Gaza Strip
52 Saudi Arabia
54 Sri Lanka
57 United Arab Emirates
60 Antigua & Barbuda
63 Dominica (But see “Dominica leader: No enforcement of anti-gay law” )
67 St Kitts & Nevis
68 St Lucia
69 St Vincent & the Grenadines
70 Trinidad & Tobago
In the United States, anti-sodomy laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, but they are still on the books in 13 states: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Conservative state legislators refuse to repeal the laws and, in some cases, police still enforce them. In the past several years more than a dozen LGBT people were arrested for violating those laws, but the arrestees were freed because prosecutors won’t seek convictions based on defunct laws.
No country in Europe has a law against homosexuality. The last European location with such a law was Northern Cyprus (recognized as a country only by Turkey), which repealed its law in January 2014.
Also in Europe and worth mentioning but not on that list of countries with laws against homosexuality are:
- Russia, which enacted an anti-gay propaganda law in 2013 prohibiting any positive mention of homosexuality in the presence of minors, including online;
- Lithuania, which has a similar law.
- Ukraine, which has considered, but so far has not adopted a similar law against “gay propaganda.”
- Moldova, which adopted and then repealed such a law in 2013.
In addition, in central Asia, Kyrgyzstan in October 2014 was on the verge of adopting an anti-gay “propaganda” law harsher than that in Russia. If that bill becomes law, any type of distribution of positive information on same-sex relations, not just discussions in the presence of a minor, would become a crime punishable by fines and a jail sentence.
For more information, download these PDF files:
- The ILGA report of 2015 on state-sponsored homophobia and
- The ILGA map of countries that recognize and those that reject gay and lesbian rights.
- 76 Countries Where Anti-Gay Laws Are As Bad As Or Worse Than Russia’s Each country’s anti-LGBTI law is summarized in a list compiled by BuzzFeed. With photos.
- Countries that still criminalise homosexuality AntiGayLaws.org publishes tables for each continent, citing the language of each country’s anti-LGBTI laws, along with whether the country has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and/or allows the UN to monitor and assess its human rights record.