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ILGA launches State Sponsored Homophobia 2016

This year’s world survey of sexual orientation laws maps just how far we have to travel to achieve full equality

Profile photo of Daniele Paletta

17th May 2016 07:16

Daniele Paletta | World

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On May 17, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) launches the 11th edition of its flagship publication, State Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Sexual Orientation Laws: Criminalisation, Protection and Recognition, authored this year by Aengus Carroll.


Click here to download State Sponsored Homophobia 2016


State Sponsored Homophobia, first published in 2006, is a fundamental resource in the hands of human rights defenders, civil society organisations, governmental and UN agencies, allies and media interested in accessing the core information on legislation affecting people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Over the last eleven years, the situation of LGBTI people worldwide has clearly evolved: “In 2006, 92 States were still criminalising same-sex consensual activity,” Carroll notes. “By 2016, that number is at 75 States, yet at the same time the variety of laws relevant to sexual orientation has expanded greatly: law that criminalises our sexual practice or our expression, specific law that protects us from harms and hatred, and law that recognises us as beings who need relationship.”

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The 11th edition provides a unique set of maps that separately chart where criminalisation, protection and recognition laws are enacted: these will be useful tools for LGB human rights defenders. These images expose the arbitrariness of persecutory laws, and starkly indicate the absence of positive law in most parts of the world. For the first time ever, ILGA also supplies comparative legal charts for the entire globe in this edition.

There are currently 13 UN member States (or parts thereof) where death penalty might be applied for same-sex sexual acts (8 where implemented), and the maximum penalty can vary from 15 years to a life sentence in jail in 14 other countries. 17 States have ‘promotion’ laws that limit freedom of expression about sexual orientation in place, and we are again seeing a rise in proposals for their adoption in more countries.  This year we chart the activity of criminalising law by noting if there have arrests in the past three years.

On the other hand, 70 States have legal provisions that protect against discrimination in employment; 22 countries recognise and provide for same-sex marriage, while other 24 guarantee some civil partnership recognition. A new initiative this year is that ILGA looks at whether there is a human rights institution in the country that includes sexual orientation concerns in its work: these institutions are generally seminal sites for the shaping of law and policy.

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Despite hostile laws still being enacted in many parts of the world, public acceptance of LGBTI persons seems to be growing. Such changes are clearly shown in the first round of results contained in a new ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey on LGBTI People in partnership with Logo, also released today. In 2016, this annual public attitudes survey reached 96,331 individuals in 65 countries (over 700 respondents in each): it will supply valuable empirical evidence to advocacy at national and regional levels, especially effective when contextualised with country situations.

Both the survey and State Sponsored Homophobia are powerful advocacy tools for the advancement of the human rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people: by analysing laws and attitudes, these ILGA publications address the lives and the experiences of real people and remind of the battles that are still to be fought.

We believe in the powerful and liberating acts that information and knowledge produce,” comment Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, Co-Secretaries General at ILGA. “We are convinced that this report continues to provide an opportunity to change and challenge norms and practices that continue to oppress LGBTIQ people around the world.”

Key figures (as per May 2016)

  • There are 119 UN member States where same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults are legal.
  • 75 States still criminalise same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults: in 45 of these States the law is applied to women as well. ILGA knows of recent arrests under these laws in 49 States.
  • 103 countries have a law on equal age of consent, 16 are unequal.
  • The death penalty for same-sex sexual acts may be applied in 13 UN member States: in four of them it is applied State-wide; in two it is applied only in specific provinces; in other two countries it is applied by non-State actors, and in five more of them it is not applied.
  • 17 States have ‘promotion’ laws targeting public expression of same-sex and trans realities. We are again seeing a rise in proposals for their adoption: at an advanced stage in Kyrgyzstan, and being mooted in 2016 in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria and Latvia.
  • 70 UN States have laws protecting from discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • 13 States contain Constitutional provisions that specify sexual orientation in their discrimination protections.
  • 40 States enacted legislation combating hate crime; 36 countries have laws addressing incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
  • There are currently 22 States in the world that recognise same-sex marriage, while 24 countries provide for some civil partnership recognition.
  • 26 States have joint adoption laws: Colombia and Portugal were the latest to pass such laws in the last 12 months. 23 UN States that allow for same-sex second parent adoption.