After I placed a report this week on the UN accreditation for an LGBT Human Rights Group, I noted in a comment that it is important as we celebrate each landmark (as with gay marriage success), we should also look back and recognise how far we have come.
Sadly, I was reminded this week that we also need to look ahead and consider just how far we still have to go. At one end of the scale, there are still five countries that impose the death penalty for homosexual acts. On the other, not even the most progressive countries have year reached full equality: there are still only a handful of countries with full protection against all discrimination on grounds of both orientation and gender identity. None of those has a full slate of legal protections.
My interest today was triggered by a report from Canada, concerning the possibly imminent execution of an Iranian man, urging the Canadian government to “intervene”. The difficulty in these countries, which are generally pretty hostile to the West in the first place, is knowing how to intervene without aggravating the situation. The death penalty also still applies in four other states (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania and Sudan), as well as in some parts of Nigeria and Somalia.
In search of fuller information I went to ILGA (International Lesbian Gay Association), and downloaded their report on “State Sponsored Homophobia“. This is dated May 2010, so its pretty up to date – but beware. The listing for marriage gives only three countries, omitting Portugal, Iceland Argentina. This a sharp (and encouraging) sign of just how quickly things can sometimes change.
Homosexual acts remain illegal (without the death penalty) in 34 African countries (more than half the total) and eighteen in Asia , in Guyana in South America as well as eleven Caribbean island states, and nine Pacific Island states. Even in Europe, homosexual acts are illegal in the Turkish part of Cyprus.
Even where homosexuality itself is legal, there are still a few countries where there is not yet an equal age of consent, even in some parts of Europe and North America.
There has been progress with various laws against discrimination of various sorts, but piece-meal protections can never be comprehensive. There are still only nine countries with constitutional protection against discrimination on grounds of orientation. South Africa led the way in 1994, followed by Canada and Ecuador in 1998, Colombia and Switzerland (2000), Sweden (2003), Portugal (2004), Kosovo (2008) and Bolivia (2009).
None of these yet has full legal protection on all the criteria listed by ILGA:
- Employment discrimination based on orientation
- Employment discrimination based on gender identity
- Hate crimes based on orientation considered an aggravating circumstance
- Hate crimes based on gender identity considered an aggravating circumstance
- Incitement to hatred on orientation a criminal offence
- Full marriage equality
- Adoption by same -sex couples
- Gender recognition
(Sweden comes closest. It is not included only under “hate crimes based on gender”. Not far to go, Sweden!)
So, wherever you are, there remains work to do on the long road to equality, both in your own country, and even more, in the world at large. Why not see what you can do to help?
(However, there was one surprising bright spot: with all the attention and awareness of homophobia in Africa, it was good to see, in a listing of the dates for decriminalization of homosexual acts, Africa is the only region listed where in some countries same-sex activities have NEVER been criminalised. Hats off to Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte d‘Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Niger and Rwanda!)