ILGA World, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, has released a new update to its report on state-sponsored homophobia. The update, released in December and titled There's Progress In Times of Uncertainty, looks at the 193 U.N. member states across the globe and the laws they have that affect people on the basis of their sexual orientation.
"As of December 2020, 69 states continue to criminalize same-sex consensual activity," said IGLA Research Coordinator Ramon Mendos, who is the lead author of the report. "The figure dropped by one this year as Gabon backtracked from the criminalizing provision it passed in 2019, which became the shortest-lived law of its kind in modern history. Moreover, last week's Bhutan's parliament approved a bill to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations and may soon be signed into law."
Of the 69, ILGA World says it has been able to verify that at least 34 U.N. member states have actively enforced such laws over the past five years. That number, say report authors, is possibly much higher.
"Wherever such provisions are on the book, people may be reported and arrested at any time even just under the suspicion of having sex with someone of the same gender," Mendos said. "Courts actively prosecute and sentence them to jail, public flogging or even death."
As the world faces the novel coronavirus pandemic, LGBTQ people around the world have been disproportionately affected, the report claims.
"Many were left struggling to survive in a world that has become even more unequal and violent," said Julia Ehrt, director of programs for ILGA World. "For our communities, safe spaces dramatically shrunk overnight. Some governments took advantage of these circumstances and stepped up their efforts to oppress, persecute, scapegoat and to violently discriminate against us. In places where laws were already a cause of inequality, things have only gotten worse."
But, there is good news, too, and positive developments have taken place over the past year. In July, Sudan repealed the death penalty on same-sex sexual acts. Germany has now become the fourth member state to ban conversion therapy at the national level and, a highlight of the report, member equality is now a reality in 28 U.N. member states. Costa Rica was the latest one to join the list and the first country in Central America to do so. In addition, 34 U.N. member states provide for some partnership recognition of same-sex couples.
"This publication is a vital source of information for human rights defenders, states, researchers, media and the general public on how laws affect people on the grounds of their sexual orientation," Ehrt said. "But each section of this report also contains hope for a better tomorrow — a future in which our communities will no longer have to fight to reclaim rights that should have never been taken away from us in the first place."
Learn more about ILGA World and the report at ilga.org.