State-Sponsored Homophobia Report 2017


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The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) has published its 2017 State-sponsored Homophobia report, a world survey of sexual orientation laws.

Researched and written by Aengus Carroll and Lucas Ramón Mendos, it states that as of May 2017, there are 124 States, (122 UN member States as well as Taiwan and Kosovo) where there are no legal penalties levied for consenting same-sex sexual activity between adults in private. In this edition we sought to provide notation on each of these States, in most cases being able to link to texts of the black letter law, as well as other resources. This year we list 108 countries (including Egypt) with an equal age of consent law, and 16 that have an unequal age threshold: these age of consent notes are listed alongside the country entries.

There are 72 States that we classify as criminalising States – we include Egypt where same-sex sexual relations are de facto severely outlawed. We note that in 45 of these States (24 in Africa, 13, in Asia, six in the Americas and two in Oceania) the law is applied to women as well as men.

Reporting on the death penalty is quite complex, and throughout 2016 we saw it reported in media and elsewhere that 13 States ‘apply’ it. In fact, only four sovereign States apply the death penalty in 2017, while regions of two other States apply it under Shari’a, and non-State actors apply it across two more States. Therefore, it would be valid to say that the death penalty is ‘allowed’, or evidence of its existence, occurs in eight (8) States. Although its potential application by Shari’a courts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Mauritania, emits a chill factor, these States have less severe penalties encoded in their penal laws, and there appears to be no data to suggest the death penalty has been implemented in those States for consensual same-sex sexual acts betwenn adults and in private. Further, Brunei Darussalam has not yet triggered its criminal procedure code, thereby stalling the introduction of its second and third phases of the 2014 Syariah Penal Code Order, and as such the threatened death penalty has not yet been implemented.

This year, we list 19 States in North Africa and the Middle East (and Tanzania) where ‘morality’ laws or ‘promotion’ laws actively target public promotion or expression of same-sex and trans realities. With the rise in the use of digital devices in these parts of the world, deployment of these laws becomes all the more sinister. Further, in this edition we have opened a category looking at the barriers to the formation, establishment or registration of sexual orientation- related NGOs: we record 25 States in total: 11 of these in Africa, 13 in Asia and one in Europe. As widely discussed about the 2017 laws in China, these laws function to limit civil society participation and their ability to bring their issues to public attention and be included at the policy and political levels.

In our comprehensive review of how we categorise, our listing of Constitutions is limited to those nine (9) States that actually refer to the sexual orientation or some such unambiguous term in their blackletter text, but we provide some discussion on sources on other’s where constitutional protection is assumed. Laws on discrimination in the workplace have substantial impact on those who are protected by them: allowing not only a basic independent income but the ability to flourish in their work. This year we list 72 States (including Taiwan and Kosovo) that offer such protection.

This year the authors had the opportunity to delve further into a generalist (‘various’) non-discrimination category: we list 63 States with provisions that are either comprehensive or are specific nondiscrimination laws (such as the 2017 anti-bullying law in Japan). This broad category includes several subcategories which may be developed in detail in future editions of this report, such as bans on blood donation, legal protection from partner violence for same-sex couples, and protection against SOGIbased bullying in schools. Regarding hate crime and incitement to hatred we list 43 and 39 States respectively in 2017 that we identify as enacting such protections, at least in law. This year we opened a category on those States that ban so-called ‘conversion therapies’ – the harmful practice often linked to religious practice – we list only three (3) States, but expect this list will increase in future years.

There are currently 23 States in the world that recognise and provide for same-sex marriage, with the law in Slovenia and Finland coming into force at the start of 2017. We include Brazil and Mexico as marriage States in this edition because in both cases, through one legal route or another, it appears to be possible to marry in most jurisdictions within those States. As regards legislation that protects partnership relationships, as of May 2017 we list 28 States: we include Taiwan in this year’s count because around 80% of the population live in areas where such partnership is available to them. Austria, Finland and parts of Australia introduced joint adoption laws in 2016 and 2017, and we find there are currently 26 States that provide for this in the world. A further 27 UN States allow for same-sex second parent adoption, not counting Italy where there have been significant developments in regional courts.

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