Report on anti-LGBT laws cites ‘reason to hope’

The battle between advocates and opponents of anti-LGBT laws has produced a world of contrasts — “some victories to celebrate against a background of hateful laws still in force and hate crimes around the world,” says the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA, in its 2012 report “State-Sponsored Homophobia.”

Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner of human rights (Photo via Wiki Commons)
Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner of human rights (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The number of countries known to have anti-homosexuality laws is up to 76 from 78, the ILGA reports:

This sixth issue of our annual report on State-sponsored homophobia sees unfortunately an increase in the total number of countries in the world with a legislation persecuting people on the basis of their sexual orientation, which now are 78 against the 76 of last year.

Though one “new entry” – Benin – is due to our improved knowledge as to the laws of the country and to the confirmation of the existence of such a law by the very words of the Benin representative uttered during the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council last year, the other entry – South Sudan – represents a real disappointment: one would have hoped that the birth of a new country would have been also the occasion to improve the legislation inherited from the old country the new one was once part of. The only consolation, is that at least South Sudan has not adopted the death penalty for “crimes against the order of nature” that Sudan infamously continues to have in its penal code.

Oddly, some countries have adopted anti-discrimination laws without repealing anti-homosexuality laws covering the same people, the ILGA states:

It is interesting to notice a paradoxical development in several states of Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean (Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius and Seychelles), where parliaments adopt legislation to prevent discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in workplaces, while at the same time their respective penal codes retain provisions to punish those who engage in same-sex sexual acts among consenting adults – one would hope that it is only a matter of time before these very parliaments acknowledge this contradiction and proceed as soon as possible with an update of their penal codes.

Anti-“gay propaganda” laws in Russia are puzzling as well as worrisome, the ILGA says:

More worrying are the developments in Russia, where the city of St. Petersburg and other regions have introduced legislation to punish “homosexual propaganda”, that can include
the human rights defenders work, a dangerous precedent which might soon be followed by the country as a whole.

Despite de-penalizing homosexuality in 1993, Russia, unfortunately, is at the forefront of a group of countries which have been trying in the last years to limit, control or otherwise pre-empt the universal validity of the human rights declaration by promoting the notion of ‘tradition’ as a sort of filter to give the “appropriate” interpretation of human rights within the context of a culture.

It is difficult at this stage to understand whether Russia is doing all this more to profile itself as an unlikely leader in the battle against the West or to pay homage to its orthodox church… or both. While this policy will turn out to be unsuccessful in the long run, there is no doubt however that it will cause great suffering in the short one.

Overall, there is reason to be hopeful, the ILGA says:

Roughly 60% of UN Members (113 of 193) has abolished (and a few never had) legislation criminalizing same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults, while roughly 40% (78 of 193) still clings to it in a misguided – as well as criminal – attempt to preserve their “cultural identities” in the face of globalization.

Although this division has been relatively stable in the last years, the recent development at the UN Human Rights Council, with the groundbreaking report by the High-Commissioner [Navi] Pillay on the violence and discrimination too many LGBTI people still face around the world, give us reason for hope, though change might not come at the pace we would like it to come.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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