Challenging the criminalisation of LGBT people


This is a Policy Brief, issued by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, reprinted here with permission, with some reformatting.  The Alliance is one among many advocacy organisations that are challenging the criminalisation of LGBT persons.:

Policy Brief – Challenging the criminalisation of LGBT people:

Recommendations for governments, multilaterals, companies and NGOs

“The criminalisation of sex between men will remain a focus of our advocacy, because these laws undermine effective HIV programming and violate the human rights of the people we serve.”  HIV, health and rights: sustaining community action. Strategy of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, 2013-2020.

It is a crime to be gay in over 70 countries, with punishments including life imprisonment, flogging and the death penalty. The last two years have brought a new wave of criminalisation. Russia, Nigeria and Uganda have all introduced new laws which ban private and public expressions of homosexuality, while in December 2013 the Indian Supreme Court overturned an earlier High Court ruling that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code did not apply to same sex acts among consenting adults.

As a result of criminalisation, alongside wider stigma and discrimination, men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people face crisis levels of HIV infection. Globally, MSM are 19 times more likely to contract HIV than other men, while transgender people are up to 49 times more likely than the general population.

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance has worked with LGBT communities since 1994. Currently, in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, we are helping LGBT groups to deliver step-by-step change in the social, policy and legal environments, using our training framework Empowerment for Advocacy (EMPAD). In India, we’re running the Global Fund’s largest MSM and transgender programme, working with over 200 organisations to scale up HIV services and campaign against section 377. In Latin America we support a network of fifteen transgender women’s organisations which together are demanding laws guaranteeing transgender people’s right to adopt the sex they identify with and an end to trans-phobic violence.

Drawing on expertise from these and other Alliance programmes, we have developed the following recommendations for governments, multilateral agencies, companies and NGOs:

  1. Adopt long term strategies to challenge criminalisation and help advance LGBT people’s human rights. These should magnify voices for change within developing countries and should support states that no longer prosecute LGBT people to fully decriminalise. They should also push for progress through the Commonwealth, recognising that 44 of its members still criminalise, and through
    the UN and other international fora.
  2. Invest in building the capacity of LGBT organisations in the global south. They need long term financial and technical support in order to hire the staff and build the skills, coalitions and internal systems they need to fight criminalisation and human rights abuses. Investments in data, particularly community-based monitoring systems, can also be helpful.
  3. Support and engage in multi-sectoral approaches which build coalitions between civil society, trade unions, the legal sector, the faith community, health and education providers and private sector organisations.
  4. In light of recent World Bank research highlighting the economic costs of criminalisation, recognise and nurture the role of the private sector and multinational companies in promoting diversity and demonstrating that homophobia is bad for business and growth.
  5. Ensure consequences for governments or individuals that incite hatred or violate LGBT people’s rights. Activists in Uganda for example have called for targeted travel bans against the champions of the Anti Homosexuality Act. Calling off diplomatic and business engagements can also be effective. In the case of government action, cross-government approaches will ensure that all ministries are unified around shared messages and working together to protect LGBT people’s rights.
  6. Create emergency funding mechanisms which can get vital support to LGBT people in danger during crisis periods, as well as providing more sustainable security funding to enable LGBT groups to protect their staff, service users and premises. These can be administered by experienced development agencies such as the Alliance with established links to LGBT organisations in developing countries.
  7. Put in place rapid response systems for dealing with crisis situations. In relation to Uganda, having such a system enabled the Alliance to quickly bring together our grassroots partners and key staff in order to assess risks, plan actions and where appropriate, reach out to external partners.
  8. Make the right arguments. In some contexts, focusing on economic impact rather than human rights can be helpful, drawing for example on recent data from the World Bank. Health evidence relating to HIV, sexual and reproductive health or mental health can also be compelling.

Data for advocacy:
In 2010, the Alliance supported REDLACTRANS to establish a framework for monitoring human-rights abuses against transgender women, which they have since used to prove extremely levels of violence against transgender women and to demand action plans to stop this.

Data gathered through a similar system in Uganda showed a twenty fold increase in anti-gay attacks following a parliamentary vote on the Anti Homosexuality Bill in December 2013.  This evidence enabled LGBT groups to persuade the Ugandan High Court to prioritise their constitutional challenge to the new law on the basis that LGBT people were facing a human rights emergency because of it. On August 1st, the Court declared the Act illegal on the basis that it had been passed without a requisite one third of MPs present.

About the International HIV/AIDS Alliance:
The Alliance is an innovative alliance of 40 nationally based, independent, civil
society organisations united by our vision of a world without AIDS. In 2013
they provided 6.7 million people with HIV services globally. They provided nearly
half a million gay men living in countries where homosexuality is stigmatised
and/or criminalised, with tailored support and HIV services. In 2013, Alliance
organisations and partners undertook advocacy on the rights of LGBT people
and other criminalised populations in 24 countries.

Contact the International HIV/AIDS Alliance:
91-101 Davigdor Road
Hove, East Sussex
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1273 718 900
Fax: +44 1273 718 901
Email: [email protected]

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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply to canariasgayles Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Video: ‘Laws are great,’ but LGBTI struggle must go further

New U.S. strategies for combating anti-gay laws