In the past few years, progress has been made with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s rights. However, there are still many countries people are not only denied equal rights based on their sexual orientation, but their lives are in danger. Largely centered in Africa and the Middle East, these countries have some of the harshest legislation against the LGBTQ community in the world.
Sources: TheGuardian.com, WashingtonPost.com, BBC.co.uk, HuffingtonPost.com, Advocate.com
Iran’s government is not known for its love of human rights, but its laws surrounding homosexuality are especially cruel. Homosexuality is punishable by death, and it has been described by government officials as “an illness that should be cured,” or just had its existence denied completely. Even kissing a member of the same sex in public can result in 60 lashes, and evidence shows that Iran has executed men on homosexuality charges.
Prison sentences based on homosexual charges are common in Cameroon, as is violence targeted against the LGBTQ community and its allies. People can be arrested just on the suspicion of bring gay, undergo invasive exams, and be tortured to elicit confessions. Though there isn’t a death penalty in Cameroon for homosexuality, it is punishable with a fine and up to five years in jail.
Nigeria had formally outlawed same-sex marriage, but recently went even further and made it punishable by 14 years in jail. Homosexual sex is also illegal, and the government has gone as far as to ban LGBT rights and support groups, as well as to target people who don’t report known homosexuals. It is considered “aiding and abetting.”
Russia, while never tolerant of the LGBTQ community, has put legislation into effect in recent months to come down even harder. President Vladimir Putin has outlawed “propaganda” of homosexual behavior, causing massive outbreaks of violence at gay pride rallies, as well as daily attacks against LGBTQ identifiers and supporters. It is a cause for concern, given Russia’s undue influence over other Eastern European nations. Some are calling for a boycott of the upcoming summer Olympics.
Those found guilty of homosexual behavior in Uganda face life imprisonment, and those found guilty of “harboring” a homosexual or at least knowledge of one, are also vulnerable. Some lawmakers are even pushing harsher penalties, including the death penalty, and Ugandan citizens could be prosecuted for activities that happen outside of the country’s borders.
Burundi had been a standout in East Africa in terms of its lenient policies towards the LGBTQ community, but took steps in the opposite direction in recent years. Though nobody has been arrested or punished on these grounds yet, the political climate has shifted to allow violence against those suspected of homosexual acts to go unnoticed, and unpunished.
The international community has begun looking more closely at Qatar’s legislation regarding the LGBTQ community, as the 2022 World Cup is scheduled to be hosted there. Homosexuality is considered illegal and is punishable by up to seven years in jail – even more if one of the parties is under 16. Muslims in Qatar who must abide by Islamic Sharia law may be subject to death or flogging if they are caught for any homosexual acts.
There is no such thing as LGBTQ rights in Saudi Arabia. All found guilty are subject to long prison sentences, public floggings, and the death penalty. There are few punishments carried out on the grounds of homosexual activity, but international human rights activists believe that police often make up other crimes to implicate suspected members or allies of the LGBTQ community.
Yemen follows the Sharia law legal system, meaning that LGBTQ individuals may be sentenced to death, among other punishments such as flogging and prison sentences. The country blocks any websites that are even loosely affiliated with LGBTQ issues, and the government maintains that “there are no gays in Yemen.”
Sudan’s response to the LGBTQ community had been largely defined on religious lines, but since the split with South Sudan, anti-sodomy laws have been more strictly enforced in Sudan. Official discrimination based on sexual orientation is on the books, attacks against suspected gay men and lesbians are common, and public demonstrations against homosexuality happen often.