A new international report reveals that 40% of United Nations member countries still criminalize same-sex sexual acts. The punishments for breaking these state sponsored laws can include whippings and lashings, months of imprisonment, or even death. The report also shows that among countries where homosexuality is legal, laws have been established against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation at the work place, or gays and lesbians enjoy marriage rights and can adopt children.
The 6th edition of the State-Sponsored Homophobia Report was released by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) on the occasion of the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The report presents a global overview of recent developments in LGBT human rights and remains a useful monitoring and reference tool for researchers, governmental representatives and LGBT activists.
Despite the ILGA report showing LGBT criminalization is still a global problem, some progress on LGBT rights have been made. Last Spring, the U.N. passed its first-ever resolution supporting equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. That along with other efforts to enhance LGBT human rights by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission offer hope of positive changes ahead. But those changes may take some time according to the ILGA.
The ILGA report is characterized by contrasts. In some parts of the world progress is being made. Roughly 60% of all United Nations members (113 of 193 countries) have abolished legislation criminalizing same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults. However, even in an era of globalization, 40% or 78 countries have not changed those laws. The report also shows an increase in the total number of countries with legislation persecuting people on the basis of their sexual orientation. That number has increased to 78 over 76 from last year.
The report notes some positive development in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean (Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius and Seychelles) where parliaments have adopted legislation to prevent workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, their penal codes still retain provisions to punish those engaging in same-sex sexual acts among consenting adults.
Despite Russia de-penalizing homosexuality in 1993, the city of St. Petersburg has introduced legislation to punish "homosexual propaganda." That could include outlawing content that human rights defenders use in their work. The report notes this as a dangerous precedent that might soon be implemented throughout the country. Russia is also at the forefront of countries which have been trying undermine of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights by promoting notions of cultural "tradition" to counter the declarations impact.
In contrast, Russia's former ally Cuba has made some progress. Fidel Castro has apologized publicly for past mistakes that Cuba has made in its treatment of homosexuals. The country has also decriminalized same-sex activity and even provides free gender reassignment surgery for those seeking it. Recently Cuban state television even televised the gay movie drama, Brokeback Mountain.
U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: DECRIMINALISE SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on goverments around the world to tackle violence against LGBT people, decriminalize consensual same-sex relationships, ban discrimination and educate the public.
Ban Ki-moon expressed his distress that LGBT people are discriminated against in the labor market, in schools and in healthcare, and are even abused and disowned by their own families.
"He is outraged that they are singled out for physical attack, even murder," a U.N. spokesperson said. "And he has called for a repeal of laws, now on the books in 76 countries, that criminalize loving relationships between people of the same sex."