Which countries still criminalise gay sex?

Friday, 28 April 2023 14:40 GMT

Participants form a giant pink dot at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 28, 2014. The annual Pink Dot Sg event promotes an acceptance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Singapore, according to organizers. REUTERS/Edgar Su

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As the Cook Islands scraps laws against gay sex, here’s the state of laws on same-sex relations around the world

By Lucy Middleton

LONDON, April 28 (Openly) - The Cook Islands have become the latest in a long line of countries to decriminalise gay sex.

Lawmakers in the Pacific Island in April voted to remove laws that had punished consensual same-sex relations with up to seven years in prison. The change is expected to go into law on June 1.

Announcing his support for the reform, Prime Minister Mark Brown said the British colonial-era ban was "a discriminatory and unjust law that goes against our constitution and our values as a nation".

Here are all the details on where gay sex is still banned, and which countries have changed their laws in recent years:

  • Once the Cook Islands bill goes into law, there will be 64 countries that criminalise gay sex, many of which are in Africa. Two Indonesian provinces also ban consensual same-sex relations, while a nationwide ban on sex outside marriage effectively makes all gay relations illegal.
  • Six countries or areas impose the death penalty for consensual gay sex - Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.
  • Another 29 nations impose maximum penalties for same-sex sexual relations of between 10 years and life imprisonment.
  • Lawmakers in Uganda attempting to strengthen laws criminalising homosexuality, which includes the introduction of the death penalty for so-called aggravated homosexuality, though the president has asked for changes so LGBTQ+ identity is not criminalised.
  • In Kenya, a lawmaker has proposed a bill which would also impose death penalties for gay sex in some cases, including when it involves a person who is elderly or drunk.
  • In Senegal, a draft bill that would have lengthened prison terms for same-sex relations was barred from passing to a parliamentary vote in 2022.
  • Many of the states criminalising gay sex are Commonwealth countries with laws originating from British colonial times. In 2018, former British prime minister Theresa May said she deeply regretted Britain's role and "the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today".
  • Gay sex between adults is legal in 129 of the 193 member states of the United Nations. Countries that have most recently decriminalised same-sex relations include Singapore, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Sources: Human Dignity Trust, ILGA World, Human Rights Watch, Equaldex, Reuters.

(Reporting by Lucy Middleton; editing by Sonia Elks. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit https://www.openlynews.com/)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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