Updated March 2021

Gay sex is no longer as widely criminalized as it used to be, but a total of 71 nations still have laws against it. Bhutan in the Himalayas and Gabon in central Africa are the most recent countries to have repealed their anti-gay laws.

Map of the 71 countries where sexual relations between people of the same sex are illegal. Such laws apply in parts of Indonesia, so it is shown here in orange.

Below you will find:

THE LIST: A tally of nations with anti-homosexuality laws.

HISTORY: Recent history of many nations repealing or overturning those laws and a few nations newly adopting them.

COMPARISON: A comparison of this blog’s list with the similar list compiled by ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. (Mostly the lists differ only in relatively small ways, such as whether they are limited to United Nations member nations.)

THE LIST

Here is this blog’s list of 71 countries and independent political entities with anti-homosexuality laws, with links to the blog’s coverage of them.

Africa

  1. Algeria
  2. Burundi
  3. Cameroon
  4. Chad
  5. Comoros
  6. Egypt
  7. Eritrea
  8. Eswatini (Swaziland)
  9. Ethiopia
  10. Gambia
  11. Ghana
  12. Guinea
  13. Kenya
  14. Liberia
  15. Libya
  16. Malawi
  17. Mauritania
  18. Mauritius
  19. Morocco
  20. Namibia
  21. Nigeria
  22. Senegal
  23. Sierra Leone
  24. Somalia
  25. South Sudan
  26. Sudan
  27. Tanzania
  28. Togo
  29. Tunisia
  30. Uganda
  31. Zambia
  32. Zimbabwe

Asia, including the Middle East

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Bangladesh
  3. Brunei
  4. Indonesia (Aceh Province, South Sumatra Province and four cities in other provinces)
  5. Iran
  6. Iraq
  7. Kuwait
  8. Lebanon (law ruled invalid in one court in 2014 and disqualified for use against same-sex intimacy in another court in February 2017)
  9. Malaysia
  10. Maldives
  11. Myanmar
  12. Oman
  13. Pakistan
  14. Palestine (Gaza Strip only)
  15. Qatar
  16. Saudi Arabia
  17. Singapore
  18. Sri Lanka
  19. Syria
  20. Turkmenistan
  21. United Arab Emirates
  22. Uzbekistan
  23. Yemen

Americas

  1. Antigua & Barbuda
  2. Barbados
  3. Dominica (But see “Dominica leader: No enforcement of anti-gay law“)
  4. Grenada
  5. Guyana
  6. Jamaica
  7. St Kitts & Nevis
  8. St Lucia
  9. St Vincent & the Grenadines

In the United States, anti-sodomy laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, but they are still on the books in 13 states: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Conservative state legislators refuse to repeal the laws and, in some cases, police occasionally still arrest people on the basis of them. In the recent past, more than a dozen LGBT people were arrested for violating those laws, but the arrestees were freed because prosecutors won’t seek convictions based on laws that have been ruled unconstitutional.

Oceania

  1. Cook Islands
  2. Kirbati
  3. Papua New Guinea
  4. Samoa
  5. Solomon Islands
  6. Tonga
  7. Tuvalu

Europe

No country in Europe has a law against homosexuality. The last European location with such a law was Northern Cyprus (recognized as a country only by Turkey), which repealed its law in January 2014.

Also in Europe and worth mentioning but not on the list of countries with laws against homosexuality are:

  • Russia, which enacted an anti-“gay propaganda” law in 2013 prohibiting any positive mention of homosexuality in the presence of minors, including online;
  • Lithuania, which has a similar law; in 2015, it considered but has not yet adopted a further law that would impose fines for any public display that “defies traditional family values.”
  • Ukraine, which considered such a law in 2012 and 2013, did not adopt it and seems to have dropped the issue.
  • Moldova, which adopted and then repealed such a law in 2013.
  • Belarus, which was discussing such a law in early 2016.

In addition, in central Asia, Kyrgyzstan in October 2014 was on the verge of adopting an anti-“gay propaganda” law harsher than that in Russia. The bill seems to have stalled. But if it became law, any type of distribution of positive information on same-sex relations, not just discussions in the presence of a minor, would become a crime punishable by fines and a jail sentence. In Kazakhstan, both houses of parliament passed a bill “On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development,” but the Constitutional Council rejected it in May 2015, saying that the wording was too vague.

As noted above, Libya and Nigeria also have anti-“gay propaganda” laws in addition to their laws outlawing same-sex intimacy.

HISTORY

The number of nations with anti-gay laws dropped to 71 on Feb. 17, 2021, when Bhutan repealed its anti-sodomy law.

Similarly, on June 2019, Botswana’s High Court overturned that nation’s colonial-era laws that criminalized “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.”

Overall, a strong trend is moving the world away from homophobic repression — though it’s happening slowly.

As of March 2019, when the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA ) published an updated report on “State-Sponsored Homophobia,” the number was down 24 percent from ILGA’s list of 92 countries in 2006. That was the year when the global rights group began documenting the laws that are used to persecute LGBT people.

Chad adopted a new anti-gay law in 2017 and Gabon did so briefly in 2020. Otherwise, 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; Botswana in June 2019; and Bhutan in February 2021.

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.

Protest targeting India's anti-gay law, Section 377 (Mujeeb Faruqui photo courtesy of Hindustan Times)
Protest targeted India’s anti-gay law, Section 377, which was overturned in September 2018. (Mujeeb Faruqui photo courtesy of Hindustan Times)

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.)

COMPARISON

This blog’s list of nations with anti-gay laws is essentially the same as ILGA’s. As of spring 2019, the ILGA report stated correctly that “70 UN member States still criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults (68 by explicit provisions of law, 2 de facto).”

This blog’s list includes three nations not counted on the ILGA list. Two are not members of the United Nations:

The third is:

  • Indonesian police escort several of the 141 people arrested in the May 22 raid. (Photo courtesy of Inquirer News)
    Indonesian police escort several of the 141 people arrested during an anti-LGBT raid in May 2017. (Photo courtesy of Inquirer News)

    Indonesia, where a large province and some cities outlaw homosexual acts. ILGA mentions it in its category of “subnational entities” with anti-gay laws.

In a change from its past practice, the new ILGA report included Egypt in its main list, labeled as implementing “de facto criminalization.” In this blog’s view, Egypt’s vague but harshly enforced law against “debauchery” is as much an anti-LGBT law as many other countries’ vague and often unenforced laws against “unnatural acts.”).

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. It sometimes enforces its notorious law against “gay propaganda” and the Russian government has not intervened in the anti-gay crackdown in Russia’s semi-autonomous Republic of Chechnya.

Under the regime of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen forces arrested and incarcerated about 100 allegedly gay citizens in 2017. Kadyrov denies that the persecution occurred, taking the absurd position that “such people do not exist.” (Photo courtesy of ABC News)
Under the regime of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, police arrested and incarcerated about 100 allegedly gay citizens in 2017. Kadyrov denies that the persecution occurred, taking the absurd position that “such people do not exist.” (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

Although Russia and Chechnya deny it, in 2017 Chechen police illegally arrested at least 100 men on the grounds of their suspected sexual orientation. Detained in two known illegal prisons, they were tortured, humiliated and beaten. At least three were killed. The anti-gay violence continued in 2019.

This blog’s current total of 71 countries would be 73 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.

Back in 2012, based on a separate, nearly complete count, St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation cited a total of 76 countries. That list was used as the basis for naming that year’s Spirit of 76 Worldwide program aimed at repealing those laws. It also inspired the name of this blog — “Erasing 76 Crimes.”

For more information, download these PDF files:

See also this blog’s article on nations that impose the death penalty for homosexual acts.

Related information:

Overall, this article’s content is in these often-searched categories:

  • Countries where homosexuality is illegal
  • Where is it illegal to be gay
  • Countries where being gay is illegal
  • Most homophobic countries
  • Anti-homosexuality laws
  • Anti-LGBT laws
  • Anti-LGBTI laws
  • Anti-LGBTQ laws

 

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