Anti-gay laws in 2019: You win some, you lose some

Year in review: 2019 has been a mixed year for opponents of the anti-gay laws that still oppress LGBTQ people in dozens of countries worldwide.

As many as 20,000 people gather in Singapore for the Pink Dot festival, which seeks recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo)
As many as 20,000 people gather in Singapore each year for the Pink Dot festival, which seeks recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo)

During 2019, millions fewer people than in 2018 suffered under repressive laws that make same-sex intimacy a crime.

The most dramatic recent change was in India, where the Supreme Court overturned the nation’s 157-year-old colonial-era anti-gay law in September 2018. Nothing of that magnitude happened in 2019.

Gay-friendly lawsuits and political initiatives are under way in many nations, but by the end of 2019, the world still had a total of 73 countries with laws against same-sex intimacy  — the same number as at the beginning of the year. As of 2006, the number had been 92.


Positive changes during 2019 included:

Also in June, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan came close to dropping its anti-gay laws. The lower house of parliament voted nearly unanimously to do so. LGBTQ rights activists are confident that the upper house will follow suit when the measure reaches there.


Negative changes during 2019 included:

New anti-homosexuality laws are under consideration in Indonesia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea and perhaps Uganda. This blog’s list of countries with anti-gay laws already includes Indonesia because a large province and some Indonesian cities already outlaw homosexual acts. The blog’s list also includes Egypt because its vague yet harshly enforced law against “debauchery” is used to imprison LGBTQ Egyptians on suspicion of homosexuality.


LGBTQ activists in the Caribbean are preparing lawsuits challenging the buggery and indecency laws in Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Saint Lucia. Their aim is to file all those lawsuits by the end of this year.

“Discrimination-Free Zone” is the declaration made by this graphic on the Facebook page for the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE), which is preparing the lawsuits challenging anti-gay laws in the eastern Caribbean.


A similar lawsuit in Kenya failed in May 2019 when the High Court ruled that the nation’s colonial-era anti-gay laws did not violate the Constitution.

Similar lawsuits are under way challenging the anti-gay laws of Singapore, Jamaica, the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, and the Caribbean island nations of Dominica and St. Vincent.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is considering petitions asking it to declare that anti-gay laws in Jamaica and Barbados violate human rights.

Lawsuits seeking recognition of same-sex marriage as well as political initiatives with the same goal are ongoing in many nations.



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]

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