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Laws on Us: new global report maps relentless opposition and progress on LGBTI people’s human rights

Summary

“Laws on Us” is the new landmark report by ILGA World, mapping laws affecting LGBTI communities across the world. Together with the ILGA World Database, it follows in the footsteps of previous landmarRead morek reports by the organisation (namely, the “State-Sponsored Homophobia” and the “Trans Legal Mapping Report”) and equally encompasses issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics Read less
  • Ahead of Pride Month, ILGA World launches its new flagship Laws on Us report, documenting legal developments affecting LGBTI people in 193 UN member States and more jurisdictions between January 2023 and April 2024
  • One-third of the world (32%) continues to criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts. Some progress is happening on legal gender recognition and the protection of intersex minors
  • Alarming rise in restrictions on freedom of expression and association on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics issues
  • Despite the increasing number of laws and regulations aimed at bolstering legal protections, stark opposition has been a recurring theme in legal debates in every UN member State

Geneva, 30 May 2024Relentless opposition is marring progress made towards equal rights for LGBTI people, ILGA World said today, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex lives continue to be at the centre of legal debates across the world.

Published ahead of Pride Month, ILGA World’s new flagship publication Laws on Us documents the intense amount of legal developments that affected communities based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics between January 2023 and April 2024 in all 193 UN member States, several non-UN member entities, and numerous subnational jurisdictions.

“Our communities celebrated important victories during the past two years. And yet, resistance and detraction have materialised almost everywhere.”

Lucas Ramón Mendos, Research manager at ILGA World and “Laws on Us”’ lead co-author

Laws on Us: regressive regional developments

To date, one-third of the world continues to criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts: 60 UN member States by law, and 2 more de facto. Although three UN member States (Singapore, Mauritius, and Dominica) and one non-UN member (Cook Islands) have decriminalised since the beginning of 2023, regressive, regional developments have been emerging. During the same period, Uganda imposed the death penalty for some forms of consensual same-sex sexual acts, and Iraq codified the criminalisation that existed de facto. Reports surfaced of extreme forms of capital punishment actively enforced in Afghanistan and Yemen. Regressive bills were announced in at least five UN member States, and discussions to criminalise or aggravate penalties took place in four more.

Laws on Us: positive advances in many parts of the world

Alongside these reversals, we are also witnessing positive advances in many parts of the world. Seventeen States now allow people to see their gender reflected in their documents based on self-identification at the national level. Despite the escalating anti-gender movement and the setbacks seen in many jurisdictions, since January 2023 five more UN member States have adopted legal gender recognition based on the principle of self-identification: Ecuador, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, and Spain—along with the state of Yucatán in Mexico. Challenges to surgical requirements have succeeded within diverse court systems, particularly in East Asia.

Nine UN member States now have nationwide protections from unnecessary, non-consensual interventions on intersex minors, with Chile, Spain, and jurisdictions like the Australian Capital Territory and the Balearic Islands joining the list since the beginning of 2023. However, during the same period, Russia and several US states regressed with laws that ban gender-affirming care and promote interventions on intersex minors at the same time.

In a worrying development, laws regulating speech, or restricting organisations’ spaces to advocate the rights of entire communities have become increasingly prominent mechanisms for criminalisation.

“We have seen an alarming rise in restrictions on freedom of expression and association. This has resulted in censorship, arrests, and persecution in many UN member States”

Dhia Rezki Rohaizad, “Laws on Us” lead co-author Dhia Rezki Rohaizad

Over the past 16 months, for example, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan and Uganda have formally implemented legal provisions targeting the so-called “promotion” of “homosexuality”. Belarus has begun to classify content related to sexual and gender diversity as “pornography”, and Russia designated the “international LGBT movement” as “extremist”.

“In 2024, half of the global population will head to the election polls, and States are trying to restrict the civic space for non-governmental organisations – in particular those addressing sexual and gender diversity. Even talking about our lives in public is becoming increasingly difficult in a growing number of states. This trend is extremely concerning: history has shown us multiple times that the advances our movements have made worldwide are often just an election or a downturn away from being reversed.”

Julia Ehrt, Executive Director at ILGA World

The tension between actual or potential progress and acute setbacks is visible also in other legislative areas. While the number of UN member States enacting regulations against “conversion therapies” continued to grow, State-sponsored “rehabilitation” made inroads in Africa and advanced as official policy in Malaysia.

Progress in enacting new anti-discrimination legislation remained limited, but multiple bills await legislative approval in several countries. The same is true for hate crime legislation inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics, and for provisions sanctioning incitement to hatred, violence, and discrimination on the same grounds.

When it comes to the recognition of same-sex couples, during the past sixteen months four UN member States (Andorra, Estonia, Greece, and Slovenia) made marriage equality a reality, and Nepal issued an interim order to facilitate such unions. Bolivia and Latvia legalised same-sex civil unions, and Japan has seen several prefectures follow suit.

Overall, ILGA World’s Laws on Us paints the complex picture of an uphill journey towards progress for LGBTI people globally.

“Our research continues to document legal landscapes, facilitate access to information, and empower everyone committed to working together to advance equality worldwide. Every day, the lives of LGBTI people are used as wedge issues to distract, mobilise, and divide. In concerning times like these, it is paramount to have reliable evidence on the laws worldwide affecting our communities and a clear understanding of the challenges that lie ahead and around us.”

Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown, ILGA World co-Secretaries General

Key figures (as of 30 April 2024)

Access thematic maps and information on the ILGA World Database

Criminalisation

  • 62 UN member States criminalise consensual same-sex relations: 60 of them criminalise de jure (laws criminalising consensual same-sex sexual acts); 2 criminalise de facto (in practice, relying on other laws)
  • The death penalty is the legally prescribed penalty for consensual same-sex sexual acts in 7 UN member States: Brunei, Mauritania, Iran, Nigeria (12 provinces), Saudi Arabia, Uganda, and Yemen. In 5 more (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates), there is no full legal certainty

Freedom of expression and freedom of association

  • At least 59 UN member States have laws, rules, and regulations that outlaw forms of expression related to sexual and gender diversity issues. In at least 19 of them, laws are specifically designed to apply to education, and in 30 they specifically regulate content disseminated through media
  • At least 59 UN member States present legal barriers to registering and operating organisations openly advocating the rights of LGBTI people

Protection against discrimination in employment

UN member States with provisions that explicitly protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics in employment

  • based on sexual orientation: 77
  • based on gender identity: 46
  • based on gender expression: 20
  • based on sex characteristics: 18

‘Conversion therapies’

16 UN member States have nationwide bans on ‘conversion therapies’. In addition, 7 have indirect regulations, and 6 have subnational bans only

Marriage and adoption

  • Marriage equality is a reality in 35 UN member States and Taiwan
  • Same-sex couples can adopt a child together in 36 UN member States. A person in a same-sex couple can adopt the child of their partner in 37 UN member States

Restrictions on interventions on intersex minors

9 UN member States ban non-vital medical interventions on intersex children; 2 have enacted restrictions at the sub-national level

Legal gender recognition

  • 17 UN member States allow legal gender recognition based on self-determination at the national level
  • Non-binary gender markers in identity documents are available in up to 18 UN member States.

 

Watch this video to learn more about the evolution of ILGA World research