2016 in review: Progress in repealing anti-LGBT laws

Caleb Orozco and his sister, Golda Orozco Neal, celebrate the court victory. (Photo courtesy of Breaking Belize News)
LGBT rights activist Caleb Orozco and his sister, Golda Orozco Neal, celebrate the Belize Supreme Court decision overturning that nation’s anti-gay law. (Photo courtesy of Breaking Belize News)

Substantial advances for LGBT rights were achieved in 2016, amid anti-gay violence, arrests and setbacks that marred the past 12 months.

This article is the first of three recaps of the events of 2016. The other two are:

The record of 2016 included:

Three fewer nations with anti-LGBT laws

These three nations dropped their anti-LGBT laws this year:

However, the parliament in the north-central African nation of Chad this month approved a new penal code that will make homosexual activity a misdemeanor, assuming that the country’s president signs the legislation into law.

By this blog’s count, Chad’s action would bring to 77 the updated total of countries with anti-homosexuality laws.  An alternative tally puts the total number at 73 countries, according to the criteria used by ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

One failure to overturn an anti-LGBT law

The East African Court refused to take a stand on LGBTI rights, rejecting a challenge to the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014. The gay-friendly Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) of Uganda had filed suit in hopes of a court judgment that such anti-gay laws are unacceptable throughout East Africa.

Two anti-LGBT laws nullified, but not overturned

The Caribbean Court of Justice ruled that a homosexual must be allowed into Belize and Trinidad despite those countries’ laws banning the entry of gays. The court urged both countries to repeal the laws, but did not overturn them.

Proposals for progress in the Caribbean

Many leaders in Caribbean nations have raised hopes that their countries’ rarely enforced anti-LGBT laws will be repealed, but that has not yet happened, except in Belize.

The head of Grenada‘s Presbyterian Church spoke out on the rights of the LGBT community. Dr. Osbert James argued that although “homosexual practice” is “immoral,” it should not be a criminal offense.

Antigua‘s cabinet stated that the courts there would likely nullify that nation’s ban on sexual relations between men if LGBTI rights activists mount a legal challenge. But the cabinet made clear that the Antiguan government won’t take such action on its own, despite a proposal from the  Antiguan minister of social transformation that it should do so.

The president of Guyana, the only country in South America with an anti-gay law, in effect, that he considers that law to be a human rights violation.  He has not acted to repeal either the unenforced law that calls for life imprisonment for homosexual acts or a law against cross-dressing.

A legal challenge against Jamaica‘s anti-sodomy law is under way.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.


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