Slowly, though not steadily, nations are overturning their ancient anti-gay laws. The latest to do so was Botswana in a High Court decision this week, which dropped the number of nations with anti-gay laws to 72.
Gay sex is much less widely criminalized than in the past. Back in 2006, 92 countries had anti-gay laws. (See the list of the 72 holdouts here.)
Progress toward equal justice for LGBTI people hasn’t been smooth.
Chad adopted a new anti-gay law in 2017. Kenya’s High Court refused to overturn that nation’s anti-gay laws last month.
But otherwise most recent changes have been positive:
- In Trinidad, where the High Court overturned the country’s anti-sodomy law in 2018;
- In India, where the Supreme Court overturned the nation’s 158-year-old prohibition of sex “against the order of nature,” also in 2018;
- In Angola, which adopted a new Penal Code without an anti-gay provision in January 2019; and now
- In Botswana.
Another recent step away from repression was the defeat of the terrorist regime known as the Islamic State, ISIS and ISIL, which operated in Syria and Iraq as a harshly anti-LGBT government. This blog had listed it as a de facto country, but now it has been removed from the blog’s list. Gay men are no longer being thrown off rooftops by ISIS extremists.
Other countries that recently made progress have included:
- Belize , where the Supreme Count in August 2016 overturned that nation’s anti-sodomy law as applied to consensual sex.
- Seychelles and Nauru, which both repealed their anti-gay laws in May 2016.
- Mozambique, on the southeastern coast of Africa, with a population of 24 million. It adopted a new Penal Code in the second half of 2014 and was dropped from this list in early 2015.
- 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. Both decriminalized homosexuality and were dropped from the blog’s list in 2014.
- Northern Cyprus, which repealed its anti-homosexuality law in January 2014, eliminating the final European location with such a law. (Northern Cyprus is recognized as a country only by Turkey.)
Changing nations’ laws is just one aspect of the fight against homophobia, of course. Many societies remain violently anti-LGBT without specific laws against same-sex intimacy.
This blog’s list of nations with anti-gay laws is essentially the same as a list compiled by ILGA. This blog includes three nations that ILGA excludes. Two of them are not members of the United Nations:
- Palestine/Gaza; and
- The Cook Islands, a self-governing country whose residents all have citizenship in New Zealand.
The third is:
Indonesia, where a large province and some cities outlaw homosexual acts. ILGA mentions it in its category of “subnational entities” with anti-gay laws.
The blog has resisted including Russia on its list simply because Russia does not have a law against homosexual activity. That doesn’t mean that Russia isn’t homophobic, of course.
The Russian government has refused to intervene in the anti-gay crackdown in its semi-autonomous Republic of Chechnya.
Although both Russia and Chechnya deny it, in 2017 Chechen police illegally arrested at least 100 men on the basis of their suspected sexual orientation. They were detained in illegal prisons, tortured, humiliated and beaten. At least three were killed. Similar anti-gay human rights abuses continued in Chechnya in 2019.
This blog’s current total of 72 countries would be 74 if the list included Russia and Lithuania, two countries that do not have laws against homosexual acts but do have repressive laws against “propaganda of homosexuality.” Libya and Nigeria have similar anti-propaganda laws, but they also prohibit same-sex relations, so they are already on the list.
- This blog’s article on nations that impose the death penalty for homosexual acts.
- This blog’s list of Commonwealth nations with anti-gay laws. Botswana’s court ruling has dropped that number to 34 out of 53 nations