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India, gay rights, lgbt


Activists in India celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalise gay sex

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India, gay rights, lgbt

India has passed a ‘landmark’ law that decriminalises gay sex but LGBT rights remain restricted across much of the world

In Depth

Thursday, September 6, 2018 – 12:41pm

The Supreme Court of India has decriminalised consensual gay sex in the country, in what is being described as a landmark ruling for gay rights.

The Guardian reports that the court announced the verdict in Delhi, drawing “loud cheers from a crowd of LBGT Indians and their supporters” gathered outside.

Under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, left over from 19th century British colonial rule in India, gay acts were banned as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and punishable by life imprisonment.

The Times of India says that Thursday’s judgment “heralds a new dawn for personal liberty and is a major victory for the LGBTQ community”.

However, same-sex couples still cannot legally marry or obtain a civil partnership.

And homosexuality remains illegal in many countries across the globe.

Here is a list of the countries where gay sex remains a criminal offence:

The Americas
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Barbados
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines

Gay rights are constitutionally enshrined in most of South and North America. However, there are exceptions, mostly in the Caribbean.

Earlier this year, Trinidad and Tobago took a stand and rolled back long-standing sodomy laws. But according to The Economist, “the political power of Caribbean churches frustrates gay-rights activists”, and “Caribbean governments have sought to block regionwide efforts to protect sexual minorities”.


No countries in Europe have laws explicitly preventing homosexual activities.

However, activist website 76 Crimes notes that Russia “enacted an anti-‘gay propaganda’ law in 2013 prohibiting any positive mention of homosexuality in the presence of minors, including online”. Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine have similar laws in place, or have proposed implementing them, the site adds.

  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Comoros
  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Malawi
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Morocco
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Africa tops the list of anti-gay legislation, with 33 of its 54 nations criminalising homosexual activity.

Newsweek reports that “across much of Africa, gay people face discrimination, persecution, and potentially even death”. Homosexuality is a capital punishment in Mauritania, Sudan, southern Somalia and northern Nigeria.

The future looks even bleaker, with Amnesty International warning that “legal rights are diminishing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people across the African continent”.

Middle East
  • Iran
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Oman
  • Palestine
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

In the overwhelmingly Islamic Middle East, it is quicker to highlight the countries that do not currently have anti-gay laws than those that do.

Bahrain, Israel, Iraq and Jordan are the only countries in the region that do not outlaw homosexuality. Even in these countries, police protections offered to sexual minorities are minimal and vigilante justice often prevails.

Meanwhile, a number of nations in the Middle East do not currently have a stable government, and legislative protections of LGBT minorities have been compromised as a result. For example, Iraq decriminalised homosexuality in 2003, but the subsequent collapse of its government and territorial claims by the extremist Islamic State (Isis) group led to widespread persecution and informal punishment of homosexuals, including execution.

Central, South and East Asia
  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Myanmar
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan

The remainder of Asia has a mixed record on gay rights. Many countries on the continent have never passed any form of anti-gay legislation, including Cambodia, South Korea, Taiwan, Laos and the Philippines, while Japan decriminalised homosexuality almost 140 years ago.

However, at the other end of the spectrum are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Brunei, Myanmar and parts of Indonesia, all of which have laws that carry sentences up to life or execution for homosexual activity.

  • Kiribati
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu

Oceania is a continent of sharp contrasts when it comes to anti-LGBT laws. Six of the 14 countries of the continent have passed anti-gay legislation. Kiribati and the Solomon Islands are the harshest enforcers of these laws, with sentences of up to 14 years for homosexual acts, according to a report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

“Much remains to be done to improve the human rights records” of Pacific Ocean countries “that still have laws against same-sex intimacy”, 76 Crimes concludes.

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