State-sponsored Homophobia a world survey of laws criminalizing same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults

Published: May 1, 2011

From the Co-Secretaries General

The year which separates this issue of our report from the previous one has registered several positive steps, from the adoption of a marriage law in Argentina and Iceland (and the decision of the Brazilian Supreme Court regarding same-sex civil unions) to the issuing of a Statement signed by 85 countries at the UN Human Rights Council condemning persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. These events mark a growing disposition in the world which makes it more and more difficult to defend state-sponsored homophobia on the international scene, as seen in the case of the international campaign against the proposed “anti-homosexuality” bill of Uganda, while the so-called Arab Spring gives reason to hope for significant changes in the legislation of many countries in the Middle East and North Africa in a not too distant future.

The purpose of this optimism is not, of course, to forget about those countries where same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults continue to be criminalised. Quite the contrary, particularly in the light of the fact that while registering no new “addition”, the infamous group of 76 countries (including the 5 which have the death penalty) have seen no “defection” either. In Malawi President Bing Wa Mutharika even thought it necessary, after raising hopes by “pardoning” Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga for loving each
other, to re-confirm his stance toward same-sex couples by having the penal code criminalising also “indecent practices between females”.

The positive disposition mentioned above, however, means that the 76 countries are beginning to feel isolated and in difficulty as far as their stance towards discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is concerned. Even more so, considering that their claim to defend the view of “traditional societies” against values “imported from the West” is gradually eroded not only by the presence of many countries from the global South among the 85 signatories of the UN Human Rights Council, e.g. Rwanda, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone (not to mention the overwhelming majority of Latin American
countries), but also by the very fact that the laws they defend are often the relics of colonialism.

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